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Children's Fiction General

A Light in the Dunes

by (author) martha attema

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Jan 1997
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 1997
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Out of print

This edition is not currently available in bookstores. Check your local library or search for used copies at Abebooks.

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 11 to 14
  • Grade: 6 to 9
  • Reading age: 11 to 14


Just like the woman in the legend that haunts her and after whom she is named, fourteen-year-old Rikst de Bruin loves beachcombing after the winter storms that bring treasures to the shores of the island where she lives. Then one day she and her friend stumble across a body on the beach and see what appears to be the ghost of Rixt, the witch of the bird sanctuary. But when they return to the beach after summoning help, the body has disappeared.
Rikst and her friends try to figure out what happened to the body, and what three mysterious strangers are doing on their small island. Rikst is particularly fascinated by the woman with long, white hair and cold, grey eyes, who she calls Ice-woman. Did she have anything to do with the disappearance of the body? Was she the apparition they saw on the beach? And what is in the large suitcases that the three strangers bring to the island from the mainland?
martha attema is the author of A Time to Choose (Orca, 1995), which won the Blue Heron Book Award, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award and the Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction Award. A Light in the Dunes is her second novel.

About the author

Martha was born on a dairy farm in Friesland, one of the northern provinces in the Netherlands. The family used horses for work and play. She trained and worked as a kindergarten teacher and made up stories, puppet plays and songs for her students. In 1981, Martha immigrated with husband, Albert and three children to Canada. They settled in North Bay, Ontario. Albert worked as an engineer, the children went to school and Martha attended Nipissing University to obtain her teaching certificate. After graduating, she took creative writing classes and became a member of the North Bay Children's Writers' Group. She taught kindergarten for many years and today teaches grade one Language Arts, Drama, Music and Computers. Again Martha found herself writing songs, poems and stories for the students.

The members of the Children's Writers' Group, encouraged her to send her manuscripts to publishers in Canada and the United States. In 1995, she published her first novel, A Time to Choose. This war novel is set in Friesland and deals with the Resistance. Martha was delighted when her first book won the Blue Heron Book Award. Martha's dream of becoming a published author had come true. Martha loves student feedback during school presentations.
Their children have grown up and left home. Albert and Martha have nurtured another dream. They always wanted to live off the grid and use solar and wind energy to power their home. In 2004 that dream came true. Together they built an off the grid straw bale home just outside the town of Powassan in Ontario. The house is super insulated, partially built with renewable resources and powered by renewable energy. They are self sufficient except for the propane tank that fuels the cooking stove.
In her new office, overlooking farmers' fields, she feels inspired to write many more stories for young readers.


martha attema's profile page


  • Short-listed, Tiny Torgi Audio Award nominee
  • Commended, New York Public Library's Books for the Teen Age
  • Long-listed, YALSA Quick Picks
  • Commended, CCBC Our Choice

Other titles by martha attema