April 18, 2022

A Bend in the Breeze

Written by Valerie Sherrard
248 pp.
Ages 9-12
April 2022 
...there are things in this world that can only be seen by the innocent eyes of youth and by our friends in nature. (pg. 128)
You never know where a bend in the breeze can take you: here or there, away or to. And the bend in the breeze that transports 11-year-old Pascale Chardon to the island of TeJÉ might have done all those things.
The small island community of TeJΓ‰ had been established many, many years ago by a twin brother and sister who'd sought a place of peace and happiness. But, as in any community, small discourtesies, some impatiences and ingratitude crept into that goodness. The brother, before his passing, dreamed that a bend in the breeze would bring a stranger who would determine whether the future of the island's people held happiness or misery. So when Pascale, the first ever stranger on TeJΓ‰ appears, they suspect she is the Long Awaited, and anticipate her revelation after the requisite seventeen days on the island.  

Worried about her family and saddened by her predicament, Pascale tries to make the best of her situation. Accompanied by her companion beetle, Inch, Pascale sees much of the goodness of the island. There are her two new friends, Kenta Morningbay and Karuna Cloudwater, and the blind Mrs. Wintercreek with whom Pascale is sheltered. She's delighted with their outdoor school and begins to learn of the island traditions for Union Day (wedding) and addressing concerns to the three Elders at the Place of Matters. Though Pascale is grateful for much, below the surface she is grieving for her situation. This is not unlike the island with its emphasis on harmony but with underlying iniquities that could shatter its future. And then there's the mystery of her boat leaving a hole in the water where it had rested. It would seem there might be another element that will determine the futures of the island and Pascale.
TeJÉ may be a small community but it is a microcosm of those who are wise and those who are foolish, those who seek approval and those who seek attention, the kind, the mean, those who cannot see and even those who are blind and see perfectly. It may strive for harmony but, as it is populated by humans, it cannot be perfect. Dropped into this community, Pascale tries to see its goodness, even when unkindness is evident, remembering well what her mother always told her. "No one can be happy until they first learn to be grateful." (pg. 97) But this is a real community of people. And whether she's writing historical fiction like her award-winning The Glory Wind and Rain Shadow, novels in verse like Counting Back from Nine or contemporary stories like Birdspell and Driftwood, Valerie Sherrard always tells of real people who are strong and vulnerable, confused and steadfast, and living with circumstances with which young readers can often relate. Though A Bend in the Breeze takes those readers to a secluded island via a stranded and unaccompanied child, circumstances which undoubtedly none have experienced, Valerie Sherrard does bring them to a relatable story. There's a child who feels alone and wishes to be with her family. There's a community that strives for harmony but includes a veneer of conflict. There is companionship with friends and animals, questioning about self, people and circumstances, and there is uncertainty. This is childhood for many. Thankfully, Valerie Sherrard also resolves Pascale's story. It might be unexpected but it is wrap that readers will appreciate.

Think of A Bend in the Breeze as The Little Prince meets Island of the Blue Dolphins in that a child is stranded on an island, away from family, and learns and imparts lessons about compassion, acceptance, and gratitude. It's also about forgiveness and hope. Big lessons on a small island. That's where A Bend in the Breeze will take young readers.

See my next post about a free online book discussion
 this Thursday, April 21, 2022 
with author Valerie Sherrard about A Bend in the Breeze.


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