Written by Brian Gallagher
Review by Geoffrey Harfield

This is a very special time-slip story, dealing with youthful class and racial tensions. Ciara, a young Irish-Canadian girl, discovers her family history in a casket in her dead grandfather’s garden. Back in rural Canada in 1928, a motherless boy from a wealthy industrial family meets a bright youth from a humble background and Lucy, an artistic Native American girl from the Ojibwe tribe, who lives on a reservation.

On her way out to meet her new friends for a fishing trip, Lucy hides from a storm in a tumble-down boathouse. Looking out through a gap in the broken timbers, she sees a well-known brewery owner commit a murder. Frightened, she knows she must report it to the police. But how can she? She’s not supposed to leave the reservation and she’s already aroused the suspicion of the Indian Agent in charge. All three children have much to learn about each other. The boys in the school dormitory argue about ‘class’ and being ‘stuck-up’, which leads to a three-way fight. And the boys must learn respect for Lucy, who teaches them the ways of the forest, which can be dangerous for the unwary.

This is a fast-paced, moving story about teenage relationships, which shows up the friction between Irish Canadians, rich and poor, and American Indians and colonials. It is also a rattling good yarn for twelve- to fourteen-year-olds, encompassing loyalty, jealousy, kindness, adventure, sensitivity, the treatment of Native Americans at the time, young male competition and youthful violence. I particularly enjoyed the Ojibwe appreciation of nature in colours, bird song and sweet-smelling pines, and the way that the story is neatly embedded in the 1920s with Prohibition in the States being an essential ingredient to the murder, and with the backdrop of the horrors of the First World War.