Novel re­vis­its doomed ocean liner

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

THIS year marks the 100th an­niver­sary of the sink­ing of the Em­press of Ire­land, in which 1,012 peo­ple died, more than on ei­ther the Ti­tanic (832) or the Lusi­ta­nia (791). In Un­speak­able, her new young adult novel (Ra­zor­bill/Pen­guin, 288 pages, $16, pa­per­back), Ot­tawa writer Caro­line Pig­nat re­counts this tragedy from the view­point of El­lie Ryan, a stew­ardess on the doomed ocean liner. By con­cen­trat­ing not on the sink­ing but on El­lie’s search for Jim, the young stoker she met on­board, we’re im­me­di­ately drawn into the mys­tery of what re­ally hap­pened when the boat cap­sized. Both El­lie and Jim have past se­crets they try to hide, and it’s only when a jour­nal­ist from the New York Times ap­proaches El­lie, of­fer­ing to trade Jim’s jour­nal for an ac­count of her ex­pe­ri­ences, that we learn the truth. Pig­nat won the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Award for young adult fic­tion in 2009 for Greener Grass. She shows her ex­per­tise in paint­ing a dra­matic pic­ture in her de­scrip­tion of the ram­ming and flood­ing of the Em­press of Ire­land. Good for ages 12 and up. What if you have writ­ten to an imag­i­nary friend for years, and sud­denly find she is a real per­son? This is the in­trigu­ing plot of Becky Ci­tra’s lat­est ju­ve­nile novel, Find­ing Grace (Sec­ond Story Press, 176 pages, $10, pa­per­back). Ci­tra lives in B.C. and has writ­ten more than 18 books for chil­dren. Her novel After the Fire won the reader’s choice Red Cedar Award while a sec­ond book, Miss­ing, was nom­i­nated for the Arthur El­lis Mys­tery Fic­tion prize. Hope is 10 years old and lives with her sin­gle mother and grand­mother; they’ve had to move so of­ten that Hope doesn’t try to fit in. When her grand­mother dies, Hope won­ders how they’ll sur­vive, but when she fol­lows up on an ad­dress on a par­cel to her grandma, it takes them to the town of Har­ri­son Hot Springs and an un­ex­pected dis­cov­ery. Is it pos­si­ble that Grace, her imag­i­nary friend, is not only real, but the twin that Hope al­ways longed for? Set in the 1950s, Find­ing Grace is a story of a fam­ily with­out hope find­ing heal­ing, faith and mean­ing. In­clud­ing both dan­ger and drama, it will ap­peal to read­ers ages 8-11, par­tic­u­larly young girls. Ted Har­ri­son’s paint­ings have en­livened the pages of many pic­ture books and graced the walls of art col­lec­tors all over the world. In A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Har­ri­son (Pa­jama Press, 40 pages, $23, hard­cover), B.C. au­thors Mar­griet Ru­urs and Kather­ine Gib­son not only tell the story of the artist’s life but pro­vide a stun­ning sam­pling of his work. While Har­ri­son was born in Eng­land and worked in Malaysia and New Zealand be­fore em­i­grat­ing to Canada, he found his true home in Canada’s North. A show in White­horse, Yukon, in 1971 dis­play­ing his unique style of bold colours, dra­matic land­scapes and play­ful de­pic­tion of north­ern liv­ing launched his fame as the “Yukon Artist.” His il­lus­trated treat­ment of two of Robert Ser­vice’s fa­mous po­ems, The Shoot­ing of Dan McGrew and The Cre­ma­tion of Sam McGee, are among his most well-known books. Pink moose, red and blue dogs, sled­ding un­der a blood-red sky and strolling against a bril­liant back­ground of north­ern lights are all part of Har­ri­son’s art­work. Gib­son spent four years in­ter­view­ing Har­ri­son be­fore co-au­thor­ing this book plus her adult biog­ra­phy, Ted Har­ri­son: Paint­ing Par­adise. Ru­urs, who runs a book lover’s bed and break­fast on Salt Spring Is­land, has writ­ten 26 books for chil­dren. This is a book that will be ap­pre­ci­ated by art lovers of all ages. He­len Nor­rie has worked as a teacher/ li­brar­ian and an in­struc­tor in chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba.

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