October 10, 2015

Between Shadows

by Kathleen Cook Waldron
Coteau Books
100 pp.
Ages 8-12
April 2015

"When we lose people we love, we need to remember how they lived, not just how they died.  Life is more than shadows, it's the light behind those shadows." (pg. 12-13)
Ari Martin's memories of his 9th summer at his Gramps' cabin are filled with learning how to swim, paddle, and picking mushrooms and berries.  That is, until an accident with a logging truck takes his mother's life and Ari and his father never return.  Finally, Ari is 12 and set to visit Gramps alone this summer. Then his grandfather dies.  So what had been a perfect plan becomes Dad and Ari flying from Toronto to meet with Dad's sister Laurel and go to the cabin, now painted in the colours of the rainbow, to settle Gramps' estate.

But, regardless of Gramps' will which leaves the cabin and 160 acres on Canoe Lake to Ari, everything can be sold by his father and aunt if they decide to do so and put the money into a trust for him.  And Aunt Laurel, who'd already put up a locked gate to the property, has arranged for a realtor to appraise the property and is talking to a developer who wants to put up a resort and golf course.

However, Ari is out there reliving the summer with his Gramps and making the acquaintance of a girl named Tam who knew his grandfather–seems like everyone nearby did and really liked the man–and shares with Ari a secret way to a secluded beach that his grandfather allowed locals to use.

The family they once were–with Mom and Gramps–is gone, now in the shadows, and only ever briefly do Ari, Dad and Aunt Laurel come together to act as a normal family.  But Ari is holding out for a family and friends and a place to call home more than his father and aunt realize and, with a little help from new friends and Gramps, he's going to do it.

I'm sorry I missed Between Shadows when it first came out because it is a great read: inspiring and honest and pitched perfect for a middle-grade readership.  While still dealing with difficult issues of death and grief and family dynamics, even dysfunctional ones, Kathleen Cook Waldron gets inside Ari's head and knows what a kid–and he could be any child from 8 to 12–wants and needs without having him become precocious or demanding.  He's just a kid who wants to feel the love of family and the safety of home and friendship.  That's not asking that much.  And by getting Ari to see Between Shadows for the good stuff that was out there and within his grasp, Kathleen Cook Waldron provides a cheery reminder that sometimes things work out just fine.


  1. My granddaughter is 11. She read the book in two days and thought it was brilliant. As a student in a school for gifted children, she said it was totally appropriate for her age group.

    1. I love hearing about young readers enjoying youngCanLit. Thank you for sharing!