Canadian Children’s Book News

Summer 2015 | Vol. 38 No. 3

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Page 37 of 43

At the heart of these two novels, however, is the evolving rela- tionship between Ariane and Wally. In a world of absent parents (Ariane is an orphan; Wally is le to the care of a housekeeper), they must rely upon themselves and upon each other. ey must learn to trust each other, for they are being changed by their con - tact with and use of old magic steeped in old conflicts, desires and mysteries — all of which become particularly vital in Lake in the Clouds. How Ariane and Wally deal with such changes, and with the increasing responsibilities of their quest, makes them truly admirable characters. Willett's e Shards of Excalibur series, planned as five volumes, gives fresh life to the Arthurian legends, and there is, indeed, much to look forward to in the next two instalments. Mike Johnstone is a lecturer in the Department of English, University of Toronto, with a specialty in Science Fiction and Fantasy. The Truth About Us written by Janet Gurtler Sourcebooks Fire, 2015 978-1-4022-7800-6 (pb) $13.99 for Grades 9 to 12 Fiction | Friendship | Identity | Poverty | Social Justice When Jess's father decides that her punishment for her most recent misdeeds will include volunteering at a local soup kitchen, she is furious. Although she knows that her life has gotten pretty out of control recently, and she isn't proud of the person she has become, she still thinks that her father's response is extreme. What she doesn't anticipate is making friends and actually enjoying her work at the shelter, or falling in love. Helping grumpy old Wilf in the greenhouse reminds Jess of how much she had once loved working with her mother in the garden, before the accident that changed everything. In gruff and grumbly Wilf she finds a true friend. And then there is Flynn — who brings his little brother to the shelter for meals and whose life of poverty is so unlike her own life of privilege. As their friendship deepens, they must eventually face the question: can two people from such vastly different worlds find a way to make things work? It is clear from the beginning that Jess has some things to work through as she wrestles with guilt and disappointment in herself. Nevertheless, readers will enjoy watching her growth and maturation as her work at New Beginnings gives her an opportunity to see the sorts of hardships that others endure. Her friendship with Wilf is heartwarming and lovely, while her relationship with Flynn is intense and a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Although both her personal transformation and her relationship with Flynn are somewhat predictable, Gurtler has written a satisfying contemporary teen romance and family drama that raises numerous provocative issues. Lisa Doucet city as well as the dramatic contrast between the lifestyles of the upper crust and the lowly poor. Leo is a realistically rendered pro- tagonist whose uncertainties and fears make her more believable, but whose growing determination to seek the truth demonstrates a courage and strength of spirit that will further endear her to readers. A colourful cast of secondary characters help set the stage for this highly engaging saga, and while the end may not be entirely unexpected, it is wholly satisfying. Lisa Doucet is Co-Manager of Woozles, the Halifax bookstore. Twist of the Blade (The Shards of Excalibur, Book 2) written by Edward Willett Coteau Books, 2014 978-1-55050-599-3 (pb) $14.95 for Grades 8 and up Lake in the Clouds (The Shards of Excalibur, Book 3) written by Edward Willett Coteau Books, 2015 978-1-55050-616-7 (pb) $14.95 for Grades 8 and up Fiction | Fantasy | Arthurian Legends In Twist of the Blade, the second book in e Shards of Excalibur series, Edward Willett intensifies the stakes for Ariane Forsythe and Wally Knight as they continue their quest (begun in Song of the Sword) against Rex Major, aka Merlin, to re- forge Excalibur and save the world. e search for the second shard takes them to ancient caves in France, where Ariane discovers new dimensions of her power and Wally makes a fateful decision that severely tests their friendship. With Lake in the Clouds, Book 3 of the series, Willett brings Ariane, Wally and Rex Major to New Zealand to locate the third shard. Along the way, Wally attempts to repair the damage he has done to Ariane's trust in him, while also realizing that he is possibly more than merely a sidekick. Ariane, meanwhile, becomes Rex Major's prisoner in order to save her Aunt Phyllis from harm, and she must confront her anger at Wally as well as the effects of Excal- ibur and the power of the Lady of the Lake upon her sense of self. e strengths of Willett's series really shine in these two recent books. roughout both, the plot moves with enthralling velocity as Willett heightens the tension for Ariane and Wally. Not only does the race for the shards of Excalibur build momentum, but the challenges Ariane and Wally encounter from family, friends and enemies consistently deepen their characters and force them to grow in significant ways. Moreover, Willett provides a wonderfully evocative sense of place. From Regina, Saskatchewan, to Lyon, France, to Queen - stown, New Zealand, and the rivers and lakes and clouds through which Ariane and Wally travel, Willett cras immersive locations that lend genuine vigour to the story. Especially powerful are the sequences in the caves of France in Twist of the Blade, as Ariane and Wally come upon drawings that are 35,000 years old and navigate dark, claustrophobic, treacherous tunnels to reach the second shard. 3 6 C A N A D I A N C H I L D R E N ' S B O O K N E W S S U M M E R 2 0 1 5 W W W. B O O K C E N T R E . C A REVIEWS RECOMMENDED BOOKS

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