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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Landing, written by John Ibbitson. Kids Can Press, 2008. $7.95 ages 12 and up

“ Every day she would play the piano for an hour or so, reading from the sheet music, and the music was fine enough, Ben thought, old and formal, though her playing seemed correct but sort of dry. She would play while Ben worked away inside or outside, not seeming to mind if he was sawing or hammering.”

John Ibbitson is a deft writer and he here proves that to be true. In this historically accurate portrait of the times in which it is written he creates memorable characters, human and not so. It is Ben's story. He is 15, finished school and working a hard life to provide food and sustenance for the family. That family is his mother and his Uncle Henry who has taken them in following Ben's father's death. The family farm, during the Depression, offered little in the way of a living so Ben and Henry operate Cook's Landing which provides gasoline and groceries for people of the area and those who spend their summers on Lake Muskoka. In Ibbitson's sure hands we can feel the pulse of both Cook's Landing and the Lake. Each has an important part to play in Ben's summer. A rich woman from New York buys a cottage and needs help bringing it back to its original glory. Her offer of a daily salary cannot be refused so Ben spends much of his summer on the island refurbishing it. While there, he learns about the world beyond his own, plays the violin for Ruth and her guests and yearns for a better life. Just when it seems that things are going to change for the better, his world is turned upside down and he wonders if he will ever be able to leave the landing.

His characters are so well drawn and his descriptions so crucial to the impact of the story. He is well deserving of the honor bestowed when John Ibbitson was awarded the 2008 Governor General's prize in Children's Literature for this fine book. It is a story that would especially intrigue boys aged 12 and up who are wondering where their lives might lead them. It has both humor and suspense, anger and love...and so much more!

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