CM Magazine Review - Rescue at Fort Edmonton

Reviewed by: Denise Moore

Rescue at Fort Edmonton.

Rita Feutl.
Regina, SK: Coteau Books, 2004.
166 pp., pbk., $8.95.
ISBN 1-55050-308-1.

Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.

Review by Denise Moore.

*** /4

excerpt:

The instant she launched herself over the construction fence, one of those tiny warnings flashed through Janey Kane's mind.

So opens Rita Feutl's novel, Rescue at Fort Edmonton. Twelve-year-old Janey Kane does not want to spend the summer in Edmonton, away from her friends, but her mother has work in Turkey and her father has to go on business trips to Seattle. Those are reasons enough for her to be sent to stay with a grandmother she's only met once before. Janey expresses thoughts and feelings of a girl her age and a Toronto girl's lack of knowledge about Edmonton.

     As a welcoming gift, her grandmother, Amanda Logan, gives Janey a locket that had belonged to Janey's great grandmother. The grandmother takes Janey to Fort Edmonton, a historical park with reconstructed old buildings and people who dress up in historical costume. When Janey is by herself, swinging the locket on its chain, it inadvertently flies over a fence into a construction site. Horrified, Janey goes over the fence to retrieve it. Following the locket sends her on the first of four journeys into the past.

     The four journeys correspond to four "streets" in the historical park, and the streets, in turn, correspond to the fort eras of 1855, 1905, and 1929. Each time she arrives underground and goes out through the one tunnel with a glimmer of light at the end. And each time there is one less tunnel from which to choose. These devices mean the time travel works by some kind of rules, even if we don't understand them, and so is more plausible. There is also a continuity among the journeys. For example, in one she meets an Indian woman, and in a later journey she meets that woman's son.

     In each case, the historical details are nicely balanced with Janey's having an adventure, and suspense is built since their significance is kept a mystery until the end. The attention to detail is nice, with not only Janey's dress but her sneakers causing comment in the past! On subsequent journeys, she resorts to some old clothes and to pretending to be a boy.

     In one incident, she confronts angry temperance women with all the indignation of a modern 12- year-old girl. The temperance women have assumed the bottles a young girl has gathered are for alcohol and are about to smash them. The bottles are really for preserves.

From the top of the wagon, Janey took her fingers from her mouth and sent a small prayer of thanks to her dad, who'd taught her to whistle.

The group of women turned to her in surprise. "Now just wait a minute," Janey called. "Why are you doing this?"

The crowd of elegantly-hatted females took in the tall, brown-haired girl in the ill-fitting blue dress with the straw hat hanging down her back. One of them stepped forward.

"Well. Who, may I ask, are you?"

"I'm Janey Kane. Who are you?"

"My goodness, Janey Kane, where did they teach you your manners?" inquired the woman.

Not once had this woman answered her question, thought Janey, as annoyance and the confusion of the day boiled up inside her. She'd had just about enough of everything.

"Where did they teach you yours? You can't just go around busting up people's property! You don't even know what they're using those bottles for! And you still haven't told me who you are."

"I am Mrs. Emily Murphy," said the woman, drawing herself up. "We are the ladies of the WCTU and we're here to eradicate the scourge of alcohol among these poor foreign families."

"Well, did you ask any questions before you were leaping to conclusions?" Janey demanded angrily, jumping off the wagon and approaching the crowd. "This family's using these bottles for canning. They going to make strawberry jam."

      In the present, Janey learns that her grandmother has cancer and, feeling overwhelmed like any 12-year-old would, she reacts angrily to being the one expected to keep the grandmother company in such a crisis. On the phone to her father, she says:

"Just leave me alone. I don't want anything to do with some old sick woman!" Janey yelled, and instantly regretted it as she saw her grandmother's face. Horrified, she put her hand to her mouth. Then, for the second time that day, she fled the scene of a disaster.

     Though Janey causes a couple of catastrophes, she wants to be good, and she cares about the people she meets. This makes her appealing and makes the reader want to find out what all this time travel will mean to her.

     Back in the present, to which Janey is relieved to keep returning, she meets a few young people and helps her grandmother with the garden and other matters. Her grandmother is going to have an operation for the cancer. Her father arrives and reveals that he's lost his job and that, as a result, they might have to stay permanently at Janey's grandmother's.

     Back in the past near the end of her final journey, Janey figures out that all of the journeys have led up to her giving a silk scarf to pilot Wop May as he is about to go on mercy flight. (Wop being, in this case, and inexplicably, a short form for Wilfrid as in Wilfrid Laurier.) The scarf, flapping about in the wind, causes him to turn and see a fire in his plane. He credits the scarf for his having put out the fire. The flight, fire, and scarf are all historically accurate. (An author's note at the end clarifies what is historical fact and what is fiction.) The pilot survives and delivers medicine to Fort Vermillion, medicine that saves the young Amanda Logan's life.

     Janey also meets the man who will become her grandfather. A Ukrainian immigrant, he will change his name. But finally realizing it is he, she foretells to him his meeting the woman who will become his wife.

     This provides a satisfying ending, even though the future of Janey and her family remains largely up in the air. The grandmother has at least survived the operation. Janey has put aside her reluctance and anger about being there and has been willing to get to know her grandmother. The two have bonded.

Recommended.

Denise Moore reviews children's books for a community newspaper in Toronto. ON.

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