Between Shadows

10 September 2015

Between Shadows
by Kathleen Cook Waldron
Published by Coteau Books
Review by Michelle Shaw
$8.95 ISBN 97815506129

Between Shadows is a beautifully crafted story for ages eight and up, told from the perspective of twelve-year-old Ari, whose beloved grandfather has died, leaving his cabin at Canoe Lake to his grandson.

Unfortunately Ari’s dad and his Aunt Laurel want to sell the cabin and Ari is too young to stop them. Or is he?

Author Kathleen Cook Waldron has an artist’s attention to detail. Descriptions of the characters are minimal yet I was left with a vivid image of each one through her ability to infuse their actions with life and personality. Similarly, her descriptions of the world at Canoe Lake become part of the ongoing narrative rather than stand alone descriptions of place.

Sometimes I read a book and there’s a sentence or a phrase that suddenly jars me back into the real world. It just doesn’t seem to fit. With Between Shadows it felt like every word, phrase and sensory detail was carefully chosen and precisely placed. I was embraced by Ari’s world at Canoe Lake: his grandfather’s whimsically rainbow coloured log cabin with its carefully hidden, perfect beach and his new friends Tamari “like the sauce, but you can call me Tam,” and Justin, aka Chef Boy.

The story is given added depth with the underlying narrative of Ari’s mother’s death at the lake, an event that has coloured and muted the family’s previous delight in his grandfather’s cabin. We are told about her death very simply on the first page. At the time Ari was nine and all was well with the world. “Then the accident happened. Dad and I went home. Mom came with us in a box. People say her spirit is in heaven, but who really knows? It’s not like she sends texts or postcards.”

I was never sure exactly what happened to Ari’s mother but Waldron scatters memories of her throughout the book. It left me with a lingering sadness and an understanding that Ari’s mother’s death not only had a profound effect on the family but also provided an underlying perspective to the subsequent actions of each character.

Walden describes Between Shadows as the “tenth book in [her] writing family”. Her other books for younger and older children include Canadian Children’s Book Centre Choice Five Stars for Emily and Best Books for Kids and Teens picture book selection Forestry A to Z.


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