Skinnybones and the Wrinkle Queen
Dave Jenkinson is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba and the author of the “Portraits” section of Emergency Librarian.
Huser has another surefire winner with this delightfully heartwarming
story, which begins in Edmonton, Alberta, and is told in alternating
chapters by the title characters, 15-year-old Tamara Tierny and
89-year-old Jean Barclay.
An aspiring model, Tamara has just been placed with her most recent
foster family, while Jean, a junior-high English teacher for 41 years,
became a nursing home resident in January. The unlikely pair meet in May
when Tamara’s teacher arranges a partnering program between Tamara’s
Grade 9 class and a nearby seniors’ lodge. The duo’s private
nicknames for each other are their immediate responses upon first
meeting. As it turns out, each has something the other needs. Tamara’s
wish is to take a summer week-long modelling course in Vancouver, but
she lacks the necessary fees. Jean, who wants to attend Wagner’s Ring
Cycle of operas in Seattle in August, requires transportation. Believing
that the authority figures in their lives will not permit them to
realize these dreams, the pair create a ruse to cover their absences. In
return for Jean’s paying her tuition, underage Tamara becomes the
driver of Jean’s old Buick. Although Jean gets to experience her
operas, Tamara’s modelling-school experience is cut short when the
police issue a missing persons alert.
The cigarillo-smoking, brandy-drinking Jean breaks many of the
stereotypes associated with the elderly, but thinking adolescents will
recognize the commonalities shared by seniors and adolescents,
especially in their ability to act independently. Huser has everything
end happily while suggesting that this odd couple’s future could
include more road trips. Highly recommended.