Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hannah And The Spindle Whorl - Carole Ann Shaw

Hannah And The Spindle Whorl
Carole Ann Shaw
Copyright: 2010

The product description:
When twelve-year-old Hannah uncovers an ancient Salish spindle whorl hidden in a cave near her home in Cowichan Bay, she is transported back to a village called Tl´ulpalus, in a time before Europeans had settled in the area. Through the agency of a trickster raven, Hannah befriends Yisella,a young Salish girl, and is welcomed into village life. Here she discovers that the spindle whorl is the prize possession of Yisella´s mother, Skeepla, a famous spinner and weaver. When Skeepla falls victim to smallpox, Hannah finally begins to open up about the loss of her own mother. Hannah and Yisella are accidentally left behind when the villagers journey to the mainland, and witness the arrival of Governor James Douglas and numerous settlers on the Hecate. As the settlers pillage the village for souvenirs, Hannah and Yisella rescue the spindle whorl and escape into the forest, pursued by the ship´s crew. The darkness of the forest leads them back to the cave, and Hannah returns to her own time with a greater understanding of herself and the history of the First Nations.
Although a story written for children aged 9-12, Hannah and the Spindle Whorl is a good read for adults too. I certainly found it to be intriguing for several reasons:

First of all, the setting. The book is set in and around Cowichan Bay for the most part, although there is one part which is set in Victoria - the Royal B.C. Museum and Fort Street areas, both of which I've been to, so it was neat to see how they were described. I find there's a special thrill to reading books that are set in places I've been to. That was a bonus, though I'd picked the book up because of the Cowichan Bay aspect.

Second, the incorporation of spinning into the story. It's one of my hobbies, though to be honest, history-wise, I'm more familiar with the ancient Greek and Roman aspects, role and legends, so to see even a little bit of how it was done on the West Coast was something I liked. I actually wouldn't have minded more details on that, but I can see why it wouldn't have been included story-wise.

The third major thing I liked about Hannah And The Spindle Whorl was that it doesn't push an agenda like some of the childrens' books I read. It just tells the story and lets things fall as they may. Carole Ann Shaw has written a whole series of neat characters, and the way things all tie in together - modern day quirks, history and discovery along with the time-travel aspect, well it all works. I'd kind of thought that the two characters being able to understand each other because of the raven might be corny, but instead it just seemed natural within the context of the story. And the whole thing left me wanting to look up more on that period of history: 1860's Vancouver Island. I'm afraid that my grade-school history lessons on that period are rather foggy these days in my memory.

Interestingly, while I was reading the book, I found that both the beginning and the end of the novel kept me absolutely spellbound, but in the middle I was able to put the book down to read other books. Regardless, I found Carole Ann Shaw's book Hannah And The Spindle Whorl to be a very good read. One I'm definitely going to recommend.
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