Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shimmerdogs by Dianne Linden

When I heard that a local author's work had been shortlisted for a Governor General award, I immediately requested a library copy. It wasn't until I'd finished reading Shimmerdogs yesterday that I realized that I'd heard the author, Dianne Linden, speak eloquently at Raffaella Montemurro's funeral mass in October.

Shimmerdogs is about two children who move in with their uncle in Edmonton while their mother, a single parent, is on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. It is told in Mike's voice - he's around 7 years old. Mike is an unusual and endearing young fellow with theological concerns. His mental functioning is not the same as most other kids. His dog talks to him, for example.

A similar read might be Guus Kuijer's The Book of Everything, another book for children that has sufficient depth to draw adult readers.

It was serendipitous that the very next book that I picked up after Shimmerdogs was Jonah Winter's The Secret World of Hildegard, which is about another child with the power to see and hear things that other people cannot. Winter's picture book focuses on Saint Hildegard von Bingen's mystic visions.

I really liked the opening scene in Shimmerdogs, where Mike drowns and then comes back to life (with the help of a spirit dog). It is another point of serendipity that a very similar thing (without the spirit dog) happens at the beginning of Lu Vickers' Breathing Underwater, a book I read about a month ago.

Breathing Underwater is a lesbian teen coming-of-age story set in Florida in the 70s. Don't let the ugly cover put you off; it is a powerful and lyrical novel.

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