Win­nipeg or­phans star in U.K. writer’s tale

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By He­len Nor­rie

WHEN an un­likely pair of or­phans leave their home in Win­nipeg to look for their miss­ing un­cle in New York City, ex­pect ad­ven­ture, hi­lar­ity, and sus­pense. Un­hook­ing the Moon by U.K. au­thor Gregory Hughes (Quer­cus, 335 pages, $17, hard­cover) is a heart-warm­ing story about a 10-year-old girl, nick­named Rat, and her 12-year-old brother, Bob, who have an amaz­ing abil­ity to sur­vive in dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances. Rat is an en­gag­ing char­ac­ter; she makes friends with ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing a New York hus­tler, a rap-mu­sic idol, a bor­der smug­gler, and a home­less man, but when Rat is picked up by the po­lice and taken to a home, Bob has to call on some of their new friends to help him res­cue her. Hughes has lived in many places around the world, in­clud­ing Win­nipeg, but now makes his home in Liver­pool, Eng­land. His novel will be en­joyed by ages 10 and up. Nova Sco­tian au­thor Jill MacLean has writ­ten a hard-hit­ting, mem­o­rable book for mid-level read­ers in The Hid­den Agenda of Si­grid Sug­den (Fitzhenry and White­side, 235 pages, $12, pa­per­back). Many of the char­ac­ters in this novel ap­peared in her ear­lier two books, The Nine Lives of Travis Keat­ing and The Pre­sent Tense of Prinny Mur­phy, both of which won the Ann Con­nor Brimer Award for chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Dev­as­tated in los­ing her best friend, ig­nored by her mother (who has taken up sell­ing goods on eBay and is never home) and wor­ried that Sam, her mother’s boyfriend, is mov­ing out, Si­grid has joined the Shrikes, a ruth­less, bul­ly­ing gang of three girls at the lo­cal high school. Here she finds ac­cep­tance and power, although she has mis­giv­ings about ex­tort­ing money from weaker class­mates and one mem­ber’s phys­i­cal per­sua­sion. But when Si­grid tries to re­sign from the Shrikes, she finds no one will trust her. Jill MacLean knows her char­ac­ters in­ti­mately, and Si­grid’s dilemma is scary, gut-wrench­ing and be­liev­able. Read­ers of her pre­vi­ous nov­els will also wel­come find­ing Travis, Prinny and other char­ac­ters again in this novel. Rec­om­mended for ages 11 and up. On­tario au­thor and for­mer hockey player Tom Earle has writ­ten a pre-teen novel that will res­onate with hockey en­thu­si­asts. Home Ice Ad­van­tage (Harper Tro­phy Canada, 215 pages, $15, pa­per­back) has cap­tured both the thrilling and un­savoury as­pects of the sport. At age 12, Jake is a bud­ding star on his lo­cal Toronto team, but no mat­ter how well he plays, his father doesn’t think he’s tough enough. When the lec­tures be­come phys­i­cal abuse, Jake runs away and takes refuge in the old Maple Leaf Gar­dens at a time it is still derelict. Sleep­ing in the Gar­dens, Jake meets a home­less man with a mys­te­ri­ous con­nec­tion to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Through him, Jake learns a lot about com­pas­sion and self-con­trol. There is also plenty of hockey ac­tion in this book, though the ro­man­tic in­ter­est seems a bit early for this age group. Suit­able for ages 11 and up. Lit­tle Chicken Duck by Toronto writer Tim Beis­ner (Tun­dra books, 32 pages, $20, hard­cover) is a de­light­ful pic­ture book for pre-school­ers that also teaches a valu­able les­son: Ev­ery­one can be scared of try­ing a new skill. When a lit­tle duck­ling won’t en­ter the wa­ter be­cause she can’t swim, it takes a friendly frog to show her that the owl, the lark, the robin and the cuckoo were also once afraid of try­ing what they do best. The rhyming verse and award-win­ning Mill­brook, Ont. artist Bill Slavin’s large and colour­ful paint­ings make this a rec­om­mended find for ages 2-6. He­len Nor­rie’s col­umn ap­pears on the third

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