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Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Prisoner of Snowflake Falls, written by John Lekich. Orca, 2012. $12.95 ages 12 and up

"Don't get me wrong. Before my current predicament forced me back into my old habits, I felt pretty good about leaving theft behind. On the other hand, I can't deny that burglary has certain educational benefits extending well beyond my program of cultural enrichment. You may find that hard to believe. But aside from the ability to purchase things like concert tickets, I didn't care much about the money."

One of the things I have loved about being on  a Canadian Children's Book Centre jury is the chance to read young adult novels that I may not have otherwise read. This one actually was on my TBR pile, thanks to Leslie at Orca books in Victoria. I am just not sure how quickly it would have risen to the top...the plight, at all times, of those who love to read young adult fiction. I did read it yesterday and I am delighted that I did.

What a voice! With wit and a wondrous imagination John Lekich has crafted a character I will long remember and admire, despite his less than stellar reputation. Henry Holloway is a victim of circumstance...a proficient and empathetic thief who has learned his trade in the aftermath of his mother's early death from lung cancer. His guardian, Uncle Andy, is a good teacher, if Henry's thievery to cope with Andy's incarceration is any indication of his tutelage.

As the story begins, Henry is living in a tree house and managing to eke out an existence by carefully watching the neighborhood. When the opportunity presents itself, he 'grabs' what he needs for survival. He is ever thoughtful; at times even contributing to the home owner's needs using ill-gotten gain from earlier thefts. The unexpected return of one such neighbor from a business trip results in Henry's exposure while baking cookies and washing his less than pristine clothes. He is arrested and sentenced to a Second Chance rehab program in Snowflake Falls on Vancouver Island.

He is placed with a seriously weird foster family whose many quirky traits help Henry learn things about family he has never had the occasion to learn. The Wingates do their best to make Henry mend the error of his ways, and he finds himself falling under their spell. However, when old friends of his uncle's show up tasked with checking up on him, they set about creating a new identity for themselves. They open a hardware store and await Andy's release from prison. Henry is loyal to a fault and is soon helping Uncle Andy and his gang plan a quietly daring robbery in Henry's new town.

As readers we meet an incredibly diverse slate of  characters, unconventional and wise, empathetic to Henry's plight and gullibly welcoming to all visitors. Henry comes in contact with people who have an impact on the decisions he makes, and he is averse to hurting them. You don't want to miss meeting any of them. But, family is family. Henry is always honorable, and a young man that I love. When he adds money to one of his victim's special occasion savings fund, he reasons:

“Most of it was money I stole from other places…. I wasn’t returning it or anything. I was just sort of recycling it.”

Even the judge sees his worth when he is sentencing him:

 “You know, for someone so schooled in dishonesty, you can be refreshingly straightforward.”

I have many saved quotes that I would love to share; I think you should read them for yourselves!
Gosh, I hope that I meet Henry again.

1 comment:

  1. I am very impressed by so much of the Orca selection. I just wish the physical format of the books was different. The tiny margins make my students flinch!