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Fiction Ages 8-11
Pages: 208
Themes: bullying, coming of age, social responsibility
Publisher: Coteau Books
Pub Date: 01/09/2003
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Nell's trying to be understanding about her mother's chosen mission, to go halfway around the world to be a peacekeeper, even though she's a single mom and has to leave Nell and her brother with their uncle Martin who doesn't know anything about raising kids.

Because little brother "Mikey" has to go to school close to home, Nell has to leave her terrific school for one which is likewise nearby. Which she sarcastically refers to by its acronym—JAWS. And which contains several nasty people who have made it their mission in life to torment Nell, and worse.

When you learn that Master Corporal Alice Mackelwain has named her two children Nellie Letitia (after Nellie McLung) and Lester Bowles (after Lester Pearson), you realize that she is just a bit of an idealist. So it isn't a surprise that she's serving as a peacekeeper in Bosnia, trying to bring peace and stability to that country after a bloody war.

Still, Nell could use her help to deal with the verbal and even physical threats. Instead she responds in classic victim fashion—she withdraws emotionally, she hides out as much as possible, as if she could ever really escape. Even though a classmate, Sam, emerges as a friend, Nell finally has to face her fears and tormenters. The outcome is anything but terrific.

Dianne Linden has pulled no punches in this compelling, dramatic, often humorous, portrait of children struggling to cope with absent parents in difficult times. Woven through the novel are emails from their mother in Bosnia, which present a picture of a whole different level of difficulties in getting through life.

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