Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 12 to 14
- Grade: 8
- Reading age: 12 to 14
A year after the events in The Nordlings, Peggy returns to Notherland to learn her friend Mi has gone off in search of a mythical “shining world.” Fearing for Mi's safety, Peggy sets out to find her.
About the author
Kathleen McDonnell grew up in Chicago, but has lived in Canada for all of her adult life and graduated with a BA from the University of Toronto. She is the author of nine books of non-fiction and YA fiction. She's also written more than a dozen plays, many of which have had award-winning productions in Canada and the United States. As befits a passionate swimmer, McDonnell lives on Toronto Island; a unique, vibrant, mostly car-free community a ten-minute ferry ride from downtown Toronto where she and her life partner Alec raised their two daughters, Martha and Ivy.
Peggy has escaped her family problems for a summer by taking a job with a conservation group that works on reforesting clear-cut areas, and hasn't thought much about Notherland since her visit in the previous book, until she comes upon mysterious rock paintings that remind her of figures she's seen there. In an instant, she is transported back to Notherland, and again there is trouble afoot.
This time, it becomes apparent that Mi, one of the youngest Nordlings, has discovered a new ability: in trying to find a parallel universe she describes as "the shining world," she manages to dream her way out of Notherland completely, throwing off the balance of the Nordlings and causing great distress in her friends Peggy, Molly, and Gavi. Together, they set off on a journey to find Mi before something terrible happens to destroy her childlike innocence.
Their journey takes them not only through different universes of their own, but through different historical periods, as each of the characters try to trace Mi's steps. They stop on the ship of Irish pirate queen Grania O'Malley, and stay for some time with the engraver and poet William Blake, before finally discovering that Mi has actually managed to dream her way out of her own world and into Peggy's--a world in which Mi, who looks the part of an innocent young child, is in grave danger.
For me, the most intriguing part of this book in the series was the historical asides, which were not only accurate but interesting. I was highly impressed by the character of William Blake in this story, and the way in which the author managed to embed so many historical personalities so deftly into her narrative without making it seem too far-fetched. The conflict was strong and its resolution was satisfying.
The second book of The Notherland Journeys trilogy, Kathleen McDonnell has done it again. This time out, little Mi, one of the Nordlings, has learned how to move from one world to another, but now she is missing. Peggy, whose imagination has created Notherland, is once again called back by Molly, who was her doll when she was a little girl, but in Notherland is alive. The search for Mi takes the main characters of the series, Pay-Gee (Peggy), Jackpine, Molly and Gavi, to many different worlds or perhaps one world in different times. The reader meets such luminaries as Sir John Franklin, Arctic explorer; Grania O’Malley, the Pirate Queen of the 16th century; and William Blake, poet and artist of the 18th century.
They also visit the late 18th century, a time of exploitation of children in workhouses and other forced child labour. While the author handles this darker time with a lighter touch as far as details are concerned, I would not recommend this book to pre-teens. This book contains a lot of factual history and the research that went into the it is amazing.
That aside, the book with its journeys is another magical work. Again, there are lessons in the book subtly given. This trilogy has been a joy, and grows along with its heroine, Peggy. Inside the journeys characters experience new things, in particular self-discovery. At different times they separate into different worlds for specific reasons, but the discovery of Mi brings them all together once again to help her return to herself and heal her soul. I highly recommend this series for perhaps 12 up to and including adults who need a little light in their lives.
Through her writing, Kacer expresses so much depth and passion you feel you are watching this being acted out.
Other titles by Kathleen McDonnell
Growing Old, Going Cold
Notes on Swimming, Aging, and Finishing Last
Journey Toward a World to Come
Honey, We Lost the Kids
Re-thinking childhood in the multimedia age
Putting On a Show
Theater for Young People
Not an Easy Choice
A Feminist Re-examines Abortion