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All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts by J. Little

Little, Jean. All Fall Down: The Landslide Diary of Abby Roberts. Toronto: Scholastic Canada, 2014. Print.

The Dear Canada Series is a strong, well-written series of novels bringing different periods of Canadian history to life through the voices of girls living at the time. There is a constant high quality of writing throughout the series and the books cover both moments of high drama, like the Halifax explosion, and also descriptions of the continuing stress of displacement and immigration.

Jean Little is a fine writer whose descriptions vividly bring a scene to life and whose compassion exposes character and allows the reader to become one with her heroine.

All Fall Down is the story of the Frank Slide in Alberta in 1902, but it does not begin there. We meet Abby and her family in Montreal and are thrown headlong into her story with the first sentence: “This morning my father was killed.” There has been an industrial accident and the family is left in turmoil. Here we begin to see the stresses Abby’s mother faces- no money, a child with Down Syndrome, and three other children to care for. Help comes from her mother’s brother who has opened a hotel in Frank, Alberta. He offers to take them all in. A three day train journey from Montreal takes them to Frank where their uncle and aunt greet them with kindness and concern. Little builds the situation in Frank; the prejudice against the Down Syndrome little brother, the prejudice, also against a friend Abby makes - Bird, a First Nations girl, and the changes in Abby’s older brother and sister as they, too, have to find a new place in the tiny community.

The plot lines are skilfully woven- Abby’s growing skills and abilities, the family finding a place in the community, disease ,and strained relations with the First Nations people to the extent of ignoring a continual warning from Bird’s grandfather that the mountain would walk.

Then the mountain walks.

The first part of the book enables the reader to become so familiar with the family and the Frank community that the tragedy is all the more telling.

All Fall Down is a strong engaging story, all the more effective because of the compassion with which a skilful writer, like Jean Little, has brought her people to life.

Highly Recommended: 4 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Andrea Deakin

Andrea has been involved with books since she was class librarian in Primary School, Student Librarian in Grammar School, student librarian for the Education Faculty when she was a student, and school librarian in schools both in England and in Canada, except for the first two years in Canada where she arrived in 1959. When she retired from teaching ( English and History) she was invited to review in February 1971, and continued to review for press, radio, and finally on the Internet (Deakin Newsletter from Okanagan College) until she retired in 2011. Forty years seemed sufficient- although she still cannot keep her nose out of good children's and YA fare.