Children’s Book Reviews
Children's Book Reviews: The Spawning Grounds
Publish July 3, 2017
Award-winning author of The Cure for Death by Lightning, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, weaves together Indigenous beliefs, European colonial attitudes, and Western views in the complex story The Spawning Grounds.
Coming home from university to help the sockeye salmon with their upriver migration, Hannah Robertson is alarmed when her young brother Brandon starts showing signs of schizophrenia, a mental illness that resulted in their mother’s suicide. Her friend Alex has a different explanation for Brandon’s illness though – sacred stories passed down through generations tell of a Salmon king and queen forced from their home by the gold rush that destroyed their river, and an abandoned son seeking to reclaim what was his. Brandon’s illness and her grandfather’s decline force Hannah to call on her father for help, revealing hard stories about their family’s past and their maltreatment of the land.
Using nature and spirituality to show the Earth reclaiming what has been taken, the message of nature’s ability to right itself is profound. The history of Hannah’s ancestor Eugene Robertson and his ignorance about the land he claimed reveals that the Earth has a long memory of the wrongs committed against it.
Anderson-Dargatz also thoughtfully examines Brandon’s family’s struggle to make room in their Western views for the possibility of possession by the Salmon king, despite being told medication is the answer.
Suitable for older teens and adults alike, The Spawning Grounds offers many starting points for discussion, as well as a captivating story that is especially timely at this point in Canadian history.
An avid promoter of Canadian teen fiction, Amy Mathers completed the Marathon of Books in 2014. The money she raised allowed the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to fund the Amy Mathers Teen Book Award. She also reviews for the Canadian Children’s Book News and writes a monthly article for the CCBC e-newsletter.
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