Prairie Fire Review - Fight for Justice

Prairie Fire
Reviewed by: Donna Gamache

Lori Saigeon, is an elementary schoolteacher in Regina. While working in an inner-city school she realized there was very little fiction for urban children, especially those with a First Nations/Metis background from the prairies. This book, her first work of fiction, is an attempt to fill that gap, and it succeeds well. 'Fight for Justice-'-a title with several meanings--is the story of ten-year-old Justice Stoneyplain who lives with his mother and twin sister, Charity, in 'Monarch City.' As the story begins, Justice is on his way to the corner store when he is confronted by a group of young people who commence to bully him for no apparent reason. The leader is Trey, whom Justice recognizes from school, but some of the others are strangers. Justice manages to avoid trouble this time, but Trey seems to be out to get him, and Justice worries about what may happen later. The problem escalates when Trey's group starts bullying Shaunie, a school friend of Justice, and then Charity and one of her friends. This leads to a schoolyard fight between Justice and Trey, and then later to Justice getting caught stealing a candy bar in an attempt to cause trouble for one of Trey's pals. The children are reluctant to tell their mother or school authorities what is happening, for fear of further retaliation by the young gang. A visit to the children's grandparents, who live on a nearby reserve, gives Justice a new perspective on the problem. His grandfather offers advice as to why bullying occurs, and how to deal with it. Justice returns to the city with intentions to find a solution for the problem, but things only get worse. Throughout the story, the author manages to work in some good advice for all children having to deal with difficult situations, without making the story seem too high-handed. Mushum, particularly, is a source of wisdom, while at the same time pointing out to his grandson that everyone makes mistakes, and that people usually have a reason for doing what they do. Hints of Trey's home life help to give Justice, and the reader, some understanding of why he acts the way he does. Other problems round out the story, less serious things, such as what school project to work on, having to present the project, and how to talk to a friend who is a girl.' Fight for Justice was recently nominated for a Saskatchewan Book Award in the children's literature category, a well-deserved honour. I believe children aged 9 to 12 will enjoy the story, for it's a fast read, just the right length for young readers, with a realistic plot and characters. It deserves a spot in all libraries and schools and I would recommend schools buy classroom sets, as it could be used as a basis for classroom discussions about bullying. I hope that author Lori Saigeon has plans for future novels of this sort. Donna Gamache is the author of Spruce Woods Adventure (Compascore Manitoba) as well as many short stories for both children and adults.

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