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Awake and Dreaming

by Kit Pearson

After reading the first line of Awake and Dreaming, an “Ahhh…” escapes. Relax; if you’re nine or 90 you’re in superb hands. We’re introduced to Cecily Stone, a former children’s writer, and a glorious ghost with attitude. In her picturesque Victoria cemetery, Cecily grumbles with gusto about the suitability of offerings left at various headstones. Cecily also enjoys sneaking back to her old house (which now belongs to the Kaldor family), and perusing their library. Our ghost has been searching for “something” since she died 40 years ago.

Next we meet nine-year-old Theodora Caffrey who has always felt less lonely when she was alone; who can only come alive when lost in the pages of a book. As the story opens, Theo exists in a bleak Vancouver with her young, self-absorbed, and stressed-out mom. She’s been jerked from school to school, and suffered through neglect and the occasional cuff. At school, Theo has hermetically sealed herself from prying counsellors, jeers, and unfortunately, potential friends. In the wake of a new romance, her mom decides to unload Theo on her sister (Aunt Sharon) in Victoria. On the ferry over, Theo spies the Kaldors, who personify the “perfect” family – a mom and dad who wouldn’t scream or slap, two boys, two girls, and enough room in the middle for her. Her longing to belong is palpable. Our ghost, unbeknownst to Theo or the reader, is on the same ferry, and here the magic begins.

We follow Theo in and out of her awake and dreaming interludes as she actually comes to know the Kaldors in Victoria; not breathing, we hope the magic will hold for this child “who weeps inside herself.” It doesn’t, but Theo fights the cards she’s been dealt (including advice from the bewildered Cecily) and carves out a place for herself.

Pearson has fashioned an intricate puzzle, slicing fantasy into reality. All the pieces fit, none of the machinery shows. This is a writer at the top of her craft. Despite all the phantasmagoria, this books resonates with personal honesty. It’s a classic narrative with a clean rhythm that reads aloud beautifully. Teachers all across the country will reach that first line, and another “Ahhh…” will escape.


Reviewer: Teresa Toten

Publisher: Viking/Penguin


Price: $19.99

Page Count: 240 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-670-86954-6

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 1996-8

Categories: Children and YA Fiction

Age Range: ages 12+