July 2010

A summer with grandma is no picnic

By Valerie Sherrard
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Ten-year-old Ellie Stewart knows she’s in for a hard time when she’s forced to spend the summer of 1954 with her taciturn Grandma Acklebee, whom she’s never known, in her home on the prairie of Western Canada while her struggling single father travels the countryside selling Marvelous Cookware. Ellie tries to please her grandmother, but the hardened woman blames the lonely girl for every fault, including the death of Ellie’s mother, who died the day Ellie was born.

Gradually, the girl manages to find relief from the monotony of farm life and her grandmother’s harsh judgments. New acquaintance Marcy and her know-it-all antics show Ellie how friends are not supposed to act and, in contrast, prove Ellie’s levelheadedness and respect to her grandmother. Uncle Roger, burned after saving his cows from a barn fire, brings fun to the household and helps Ellie see how Grandma has closed herself off from any emotions. Ellie’s greatest enjoyment, however, comes from Sammy, an injured magpie, which she nurses back to health.

Reminiscent of Sarah, Plain and Tall, this heartfelt story chronicles a prairie family adjusting to grief and change. As she explores the familial relationships, author Valerie Sherrard also provides fascinating descriptions of life in rural Canada.

The return of Ellie’s father leads to a bittersweet transition. Although her prayers are finally answered, the girl’s goodbyes to her uncle and grandmother are harder than expected. In the process of learning to see and appreciate one another, this new family has also found love.

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Tumbleweed Skies

Tumbleweed Skies

By Valerie Sherrard
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
ISBN 9781554551132

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