Friday, 17 August 2012

Review - Raspberries on the Yangtze

Raspberries on the Yangtze by Karen Wallace

Raspberries on the Yangtze
Raspberries on the Yangtze.  Sounds delicious and suggestive of something  out of place. Short-listed for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize 2002, the cover of this edition of Raspberries on the Yangtze really does look like raspberries, sugar and cream on a gentle summer’s day.  And the story reads the way it looks. 

Nancy is a young girl (pre-teen) who lives with her annoying brother and parents with seven dogs and some cats in a house with a “friendly wooden face” in the Canadian countryside. The Yangtze is the name she gives a fence that she finds during their outdoor adventurous play. She tells the story of a quandary into which she finds herself wading deeper and deeper.

It begins when she realises that things and people are not always what they seem and this challenges her knowledge of the facts of life and life as her community knows it. For some, this will all be solved by a bottle of fizzy coke.  For others, the consequences are life changing.

A quick, easy read for adults but a book whose ‘coming-of-age’ issues might hit a lingering nerve with many younger readers. Marked by Michael Morpurgo as Swallows and Amazons for the 21st century, this book certainly takes you beyond The Famous Five which “didn’t go in for boys and girls grabbing each other in cars” as Nancy puts it (p.86).  But there are also plenty of laugh out loud – and then laugh again – moments that are not all dependent on the children’s perspectives of daily and adult lives.  Especially watch out for the moments with Bogey and the fish, and cupboards. For the older reader, the book may hold a mildly poignant charm.

For those of you who didn’t know that cupboards were central to the facts of life (and that included me), you’d best get reading.

Publication details:
Simon & Schuster, 2002, London, paperback

This copy: our own (from Oxfam)

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