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Children's Fiction 20th Century

Picturing Alyssa

Canada’s Silent Siren, America’s Sweetheart

by (author) Alison Lohans

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Aug 2011
20th Century, Friendship, Girls & Women
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Aug 2011
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


Short-listed for the 2011 Saskatchewan Book Awards: Children’s Literature Award and Regina Book Award
Who is the girl staring out of the old photograph? Every time Alyssa Dixon looks at it, even by accident, she finds herself on an Iowa farm in 1931. The past is nothing like Alyssas unhappy life her mother severely depressed after the stillbirth of Alyssas baby sister; escalating bullying by Brooklynne, a popular girl; and a teacher who is unsympathetic toward Alyssas familys pacifist beliefs.
Why cant Alyssa live in the past with her new friend, Deborah? Yet Alyssa is always pulled back to the present, where things only get worse. Maybe the farm isnt so idyllic, though. Deborahs mother is ill with a difficult pregnancy, and theres so much work. A series of old family photos shows Alyssa unsettling things about Deborahs family things Deborah seems not to know. Can Alyssa help the baby be born safely, and at the same time work through the overwhelming problems at home?

About the author

Alison Lohans is an award-winning, internationally published author of many books for young people, most recently "River Rat" and "This Land We Call Home," which won the 2008 Saskatchewan Book Award for Young Adult Literature. She has also worked as a writing instructor and a music teacher, and served as Writer in Residence in addition to doing hundreds of author talks across Canada. Born and raised in central California, Alison immigrated to Canada during the Vietnam War years. She has two grown sons and gets great enjoyment from her passion for music, playing cornet, recorder and cello in several amateur groups in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Alison Lohans' profile page


  • Short-listed, Saskatchewan Book Awards - Children's Literature Award
  • Short-listed, Saskatchewan Book Awards - Regina Book Award
  • Commended, Dewey Divas and the Dudes

Editorial Reviews

The strongest scenes of this book are those describing Alyssa's relationships with her family. Her interactions with her brother are realistic and touching as they both deal with their parents' neglect. The characters of the great-grandmother's family are well-drawn and their interactions with each other and with Alyssa are convincing.

CM Magazine

The author tells a gripping story and has the reader trying to solve the problems, and yet wondering how it could possibly work out. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Lethbridge Herald

...readers will connect with Alyssa and her increasing frustration with her home situation.

Resource Links

In the hands of experienced writers Buffie [author of Winter Shadows] and Lohans, the shifts between past and present are easily navigated by readers. The brooch in Winter Shadows and the photograph in Picturing Alyssa both operate smoothly to convey characters through time and space. At first stricken with confusion, and then with growing understanding and control, these two protagonists are strikingly convincing within the suspension of disbelief conjured by good fantasy. Both books are highly recommended for ages 11 and up.

The Saskatoon Star-Phoenix interesting read, pushing readers to think about ideas in our high-pressure, fast-paced society.

The Guelph Mercury

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