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Young Adult Fiction Country Life

Snakes & Ladders

by (author) Shaun Smith

Dundurn Press
Initial publish date
Jan 2009
Country Life, Marriage & Divorce, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2009
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Jan 2009
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 12 to 15
  • Grade: 7 to 10
  • Reading age: 12 to 15


For as long as 13-year-old Paige Morrow can remember, the tree fort in the giant oak near her cottage in Ontario’s Muskoka has been her sanctuary. Now everything is changing. Its the summer of 1971, and she and her little brother, Toby, have been at their cottage with their mother since school let out. But this year, Paige feels more alone than ever. Her father has stopped coming up from the city on weekends, while her mother buries herself in whiskey and writing.
Paige retreats to her tree fort, but becomes concerned when the farmer who owns the property hires a creepy arborist – a "tree doctor," Paige’s mother calls him. Is something wrong with the farms apple orchard or with her tree? When Paige befriends the arborist’s troubled teenage daughter, Janine, and her group of rowdy locals, she is pulled into a maze of dark secrets and shocking truths that leads to a life-and-death confrontation.

About the author

Shaun Smith is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Toronto Life, Chatelaine, the Globe and Mail, and on CBC Arts Online. He is a regular book reviewer for the Toronto Star and a contributing editor at Quill & Quire. He lives in Toronto. His website is

Shaun Smith's profile page

Editorial Reviews

A phenomenal read for young adults! Shaun Smith has written a novel rich in motifs and symbols that would appeal to both the male and female junior high aged reader. Rarely does an author or novel captivate the reader the way in which Shaun Smith has with Snakes and Ladders. A powerful summer read for any adolescent.

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The idyllic sanctuary of Paige's Muskoka cottage is shattered when discord between her parents, a group of rowdy locals, trouble with her brother and a threat to her beloved grandfather's tree spiral into a life-and-death struggle.

Today's Parent

...this book is touching, intriguing and devasting ... Snakes and Ladders is a story you won't soon forget (FOUR STARS).

...Shaun Smith uses language beautifully, paints vivid scenes, and builds the tension wonderfully in this coming-of-age story.

CM Magazine

"In Snakes and Ladders Smith adroitly captures this dichotomy showing the outsiders summer Muskoka experience in a place that for them is just as much a home as the city but closer to nature and freedom."

Muskoka magazine