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THE WANIGAN by Gloria Whelan


A Life on the River

by Gloria Whelan

Pub Date: April 9th, 2002
ISBN: 0-375-81429-9
Publisher: Knopf

“I will be forced to live in low circumstances,” moans bookish Annabel Lee as she and her mother prepare to follow her father and other lumberjacks down Michigan’s Au Sable River aboard a “wanigan,” or floating kitchen/supply raft, with a winter’s crop of logs. Before the logs drift into Lake Huron three months later, Annabel Lee has slowly become aware of the natural beauties passing on every side, coped with the cooking when her mother falls ill, survived a forest fire and other misadventures, and even reached an accord with the motherless “chore boy” Jimmy. Quoting lines of lugubrious verse at every turn, Annabel Lee (named after a figure from her favorite poet) makes a refreshing narrator reminiscent of Lucy Whipple, though with less stamina, and the author’s picture of logging camps and life in the 1870s makes a vivid backdrop for the adventure. As Annabel Lee departs with her parents for a more settled life in Detroit with barely a backward glance, the trip has more of an episodic feel than a life-changing experience. Still, readers will enjoy meeting this spirited 11-year-old, and may even be tempted to seek out Cornelia Meigs’s Newbery Honor winning Swift River (1932, 1994) for a similarly rousing voyage. (author’s note, illustrations not seen) (Fiction. 9-11)