Book: Raspberries on the Yangtze

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Raspberries on the Yangtze

Author: Karen Wallace
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

The Yangtze in this story is not a river in China. It's a name Nancy gives to a special place near the edge of her town in the back-woods of Quebec, Canada. It's here, where the wild raspberries grow, that Nancy and her friends, the strange and wonderful sisters Clare and Amy, explore and let their imaginations soar.

The girls wonder about their neighbor, Sandra the troublemaker, and her older teenage sister, Tracy. Sandra's mother thinks Nancy is a bad influence. But Nancy has seen and heard strange things happening at Sandra's house. She's sure there are more secrets hidden behind their closed doors.

During this summer of change, as Nancy struggles to make sense of the world around her, she learns that things are seldom what they seem. Once something is revealed, Nancy can't go back to the way she was before.

The Yangtze in our story is not China's river, but rather a magical place in the Canadian countryside on the outskirts of a small town. There, in the 1950s, a group of children look forward to what promises to be a glorious summer. There are six of them — all different in age and character. Nancy is a down-to-earth girl, and her only challenge in life is Andrew, her elder brother. Then there are Clare, Amy, Sandra, and Tracy. The children have known each other and their families for most of their lives, but this is the year when everything they ever thought they knew will change.


Every now and again a book comes along and takes you by surprise, forcing you to assess every emotion as you read through the pages, desperate to find out what happens yet unwilling to believe that very soon the story will be over.

Raspberries on the Yangtze is such a book. On the surface this is a simple story of childhood in the backwoods of Quebec in Canada, with a cast of characters that at first may seem somewhat stereotyped but who, as the story progresses, show their true colours one by one.

Set in a time when children could wander free, where hopes and dreams are built, shattered and reborn as a group of friends meander through their own little world oblivious to the changes that will soon be forced upon them, this stunning book is deceptively simple. At first this lazy-day story allows the reader to sit back and wallow in the atmosphere, but soon begins to move on a pace as the author harnesses her talent for the narrative and complements each twist of the unfolding tale with authentic dialogue that cuts to the quick.

Raspberries of the Yangtze is superb; the characters, particularly Nancy who tells the tale, are strong and believable; the story, which begins slowly and gradually builds as the heat of the truth of the children's lives begins to bubble over, is well-crafted, and Wallace shows a particular talent for creating a true sense of time and place.

This book is deliciously atmospheric, with its nod toward better days and the golden summers of childhood, and deserves to be savoured by its readers, no matter how young or old they may be. (Ages 11 and over) - Susan Harrison

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