Saturday, April 9, 2011
The magical adventures of Kaya Stormchild
Canadian writer Lael Whitehead has written an enchanting adventure story about a young girl who is orphaned when her parents fishing boat is capsized in a storm on British Columbia’s Salish Sea. Rescued by Kelpie the seal and pushed to tiny Tangle Island, she meets Grandmother, the bald eagle that mothers and raises her. When we meet Kaya, she is eleven years old, able to understand the birds and beasts around her, and savvy about living on her own. Piloting her red canoe to and from the nearby town of Campbell Harbour on Henby Island, she trades the fish that Grandmother Eagle catches for supplies for the home she has built in a huge old red cedar tree, a place so magical that I want to go there.
The drama begins when someone begins murdering eagles, porpoises and other creatures and selling their parts to foreign customers. Worse, the mysterious Omrith has disappeared from its place deep in the Salish Sea. Without it, the ancient rites of the Salish Sea cannot take place, which will have disastrous consequences for everyone. Kaya is drawn into the mystery because of her love for her creatures and a desire to help Grandmother Eagle find the culprits. You’ll have to read the book to find out what the Omrith is, how (and whether) it is related to what could be an earth-shattering calamity, and what happens in the end.
One scene that is that is just magical is a great coming together of all the sea creatures and all the birds in a central place in the Salish Sea. Fish, whales, porpoises, orcas, eagles, ravens – creatures of every description that would normally dine on one another, meet peacefully in such numbers that both the sky and sea seem to boil with them. A natural assumption that such a thing can’t be real … but it is. My wife and I watched it happen last year on a TV documentary in Japan. Gradually the creatures gathered, fell silent … and then suddenly began to leave until everything was calm again. I don’t recall what it was called, but it certainly was magical. Lael Whitehead brings it back to life again as one of the high points in her novel.
Will there be another Kaya Stormchild novel? This volume begs for at least one more, so tell as many people as you can about this one so there’s a demand for a second. Is it really that good? Oh, yes! Reading it I am reminded of Garth Stein’s Raven Stole the Moon and The Art of Racing in the Rain, and Scottish poet Kenneth White’s poems about the sea and seacoast of western Scotland. Another is The Old Man and the Monkey.
This is a five-star tale, the kind you’ll read over and over again and share with your children.
Paperback and Kindle, available from Amazon.com.