cover image THE WANIGAN: A Life on the River

THE WANIGAN: A Life on the River

Gloria Whelan, . . Knopf, $14.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-375-81429-7

Whelan (Angel on the Square) whisks readers to the wilds of a northern Michigan lumber camp in this brief, evocative novel. After 11-year-old Annabel Lee's parents sell their house in Detroit for what proves to be a worthless farm in the wilderness, Annabel's father must take a job as a lumberjack. The heroine does not take kindly to the logging camp: "I did all that I could to raise myself above my sad surroundings." Jimmy McGuire, the motherless son of one of the loggers and camp chore boy, soon dubs her Princess Annie. Things only get worse when her father is chosen to shepherd the logs downriver to Lake Huron, and Annabel and her mother are consigned to the wanigan, a floating cookhouse that accompanies the men. Using the trip downriver as a metaphor for Annabel's own inner journey, Whelan crafts an engaging tale, skillfully conjuring the time period and setting as she weaves in information about the 19th-century timber industry and natural history of the region. As the narrator comes to appreciate the ever-changing landscape and the rough-hewn crew (she dots all of her observations with frequent allusions to her favorite author, "Mr. Edgar Allan Poe" ), she emerges as an immensely likable and fully realized character, one with whom readers will readily sympathize. Final artwork not seen by PW. Ages 8-12. (Apr.)