Summer of Discovery
Al Stray is manager of the Port Credit Public Library.
Summer camp provides the backdrop for this, the author’s tenth novel; with the exception of Suzie-Q (Scholastic, 1978), this is Wilson’s most serious. Instead of amateur sleuths Tom and Liz Austen, the protagonist is Ian Danoff, a young victim of spina bifida.
Frightened, over-protected, and confined to a wheelchair, Ian finds himself alone for the first time, away from his parents and the familiar surroundings of Saskatoon. Wilson has drawn on his experience as a counsellor at Camp Easter Seal, a camp for the disabled. All the campers are portrayed in a positive light, emphasizing what they can do, their frustrations, and their dreams. As a result Wilson challenges most readers’ images of the disabled.
Growing up is difficult enough under the best of circumstances. Through the skillful use of dialogue and action, Wilson shows the reader just how tough it can be if you are crippled, armless, brain-damaged, abused, or over-protected. It is easy enough to feel sorry for yourself, envious and jealous. Ian does. This, plus a fear of the unknown, makes him a “slave.” How he confronts and comes to grips with these feelings is the focus of the story. A young camp counsellor who seemingly has it made is used as Ian’s foil. Emotions are aroused that all readers will be able to identify with.
And what would an Eric Wilson book be without a little mystery! Combine this with suspense and a good dose of adventure, and you have a story that will appeal to the thousands of the author’s fans who have already been hooked by his mystery series.