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All-Season Edie

by Annabel Lyon

It’s a convention of kids’ books – think Anne of Green Gables – that the hero or heroine is more articulate than most of the people around them. Certainly that’s the case with the eponymous narrator of Annabel Lyon’s first children’s novel, All-Season Edie.

We’re conditioned to expect a higher standard of wit in fiction – for example, Edie says “See you later, hatface,” not just goodbye, to a kid sunning with his hat on his face. Who wants to spend hours reading a book in which the characters say things we could hear at home, like “I guess so” or “pass the cheese”? Lyon’s 11-year-old Edie may not always be eloquent, especially off her own turf, but at home she’s the queen of comic timing. She has to be, with a beautiful, perfect 13-year-old sister named Dexter who never lets her get away with a thing.

It’s not so much that Edie talks better than the rest of us – she thinks more interestingly, and her imagery is great. She finds the ancient Egyptians “sympathetic” and answers a strange boy “cordially.” Her sister has a “temper like a house of cards.” Arriving at a West Coast holiday cabin late at night, she vividly describes the water lapping at the shore as “a hundred thirsty little tongues”; a lone night bird “grieves.”

She is also preternaturally perceptive and observant. She clues in at once that every time her father takes his glasses off and rubs his forehead, he’s worrying about his own father, who has just had a “tiny, tiny stroke” and whose decline puts the family under considerable strain. She gives us a vivid little meditation on the wonderful freedom of girls in books (other books, that is, not this one) in contrast to her own overprotected suburban life. What’s more, she moves us – often to laughter, and sometimes to tears.

Not many 11-year-olds think with the subtlety of Jane Austen’s Lizzie Bennett, but a willing suspension of disbelief sets in for the reader right away, out of the sheer pleasure of being in Edie’s lively brain. Besides, Edie often acts her age – at times, even younger. She saves loonies in a jar as pirate treasure. She goes all peculiar at the idea of putting a worm on a hook. This mix of babyish behaviour with her old-head-on-young-shoulders view keeps her credible.

All-Season Edie is a first foray into children’s fiction for Lyon, a writer in New Westminster, B.C. Both her previous titles were short fiction for adults: Oxygen (The Porcupine’s Quill, 2000) was a collection of short stories, and The Best Thing for You (McClelland & Stewart, 2004) brought together several novellas. Both books won Lyon high praise: different reviewers celebrated her imagery, her vibrant dialogue, and the eccentric quirks and complexities of her characters.

These qualities are again generously present in All-Season Edie, particularly in the eccentricity and complexity of her characters. Edie’s mother and father are evoked with a few deft gestures and perfectly pitched lines. As the mother of young children, Lyon no doubt has a ringside seat on the intricate mechanics of sibling rivalry, and she uses her experience to good effect in depicting the parry and thrust of domestic survival. We’re right inside this family, jockeying for position outside the bathroom (“First up, best dressed!”).

Lyon tells an essentially simple story (themes: sisters, death, growing up) from the perspective of the younger kid in a two-child family over the course of a year. She constructs this book not as a single narrative but as a collection of vividly realized episodes. Edie takes up witchcraft; Edie learns flamenco; Edie tags along at a party at Mean Megan’s house and becomes the whistle-blower when it turns into a full-blown disaster. However, the separate stories are carefully linked, and the cumulative effect is remarkably lifelike.   

Young readers hooked on the adrenalin of Pottermania or Goosebumps may get glassy-eyed at the set-piece quality of Edie’s Christmas shopping trip, where she gets spectacularly sick at the mall. Still, there’s plenty going on here – in her delirium she encounters four gods and learns that her grandfather is in the underworld. Overall, there’s enough momentum in the book’s two central strands of sisterly rivalry and Grandpa’s illness to carry a kid to the end.  

No doubt Lyon will return to the world of adult fiction, where she doesn’t have to rein in her characters or her language. But whether All-Season Edie is a busman’s holiday or the start of a new side career, readers win. Subtle, sad, and hilarious, it has a wonderful way with words and features characters that stick.


Reviewer: Maureen Garvie

Publisher: Orca Book Publishers


Price: $8.95

Page Count: 180 pp

Format: Paper

ISBN: 978-1-55143-713-2

Released: March

Issue Date: 2008-5


Age Range: 10+

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