Winner of the Governor General's Literary Award, Redwork
is one of Michael Bedard's most intriguing and inventive novels for young readers. Fifteen-year-old Cass and his mother, Alison, move into an unkempt old house owned by the mysterious Mr. Magnus, in an otherwise upscale Toronto neighbourhood. They both love their new digs, but Cass can't help wondering about the reclusive old man, especially after hearing rumours that he is senile or even mad. To top it off, Mr. Magnus seems to be carrying on some kind of dark-of-midnight experiments in the rickety garage at the back of the house. Cass decides to investigate these nocturnal goings-on with the help of his friend Maddy, but the landlord catches the pair snooping and threatens to evict Cass and his mother. Eventually, however, Mr. Magnus lets down his guard and takes Cass and Maddy into his confidence, telling them of his crippling experiences in World War I and his lifelong pursuit of redwork, an alchemical process by which he hopes to regain the youth that he sacrificed in the Great War. Magic and mystery draw Cass deeper and deeper into redwork, with possibly devastating consequences. Bedard creates here a totally mesmerizing story that is sure to capture the imaginations of readers who enjoy fantasy fiction. (Ages 12 and older) --Jeffrey Canton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From School Library Journal
The unkempt old house, an eyesore in a gentrified Canadian city neighborhood, reminds 15-year-old Cass of a half-remembered dream. Its cheap second-floor flat is such a godsend that he and his improvident single mother, Alison, don't mind their reclusive, possibly sinister landlord, Mr. Magnus, living on the floor below. While Alison plunges into her long-postponed thesis on William Blake, Cass unpacks and observes neighborhood bullies extort cash from young children and play nasty pranks on Mr. Magnus. When Cass takes a job as an usher in a run-down movie theatre, he endures abuse by the head usher. Meanwhile he ponders the significance of pictures left in his flat--a painting of a snake swallowing its tail, a photograph of young Mr. Magnus in World War I uniform--and of the dreams that haunt him, dreams of muddy trenches, of gunfire, gas, blood, pain, and fear. Curiosity and sympathy draw Cass and his new friend Maddy into the old man's obsession with alchemy, which gives the book its title. While the villains seem implausibly malicious, the main characters are vivid and three-dimensional, and the atmosphere of decay and disorder is made palpable by sensuous writing. Yet the overall impression is of an unfocused narrative, its disparate elements never fully integrated. Teetering on the line between fantasy and realism, Redwork falls short of the high standard set by Margaret Mahy's Memory (McElderry, 1988), the consummate tale of interaction between young and old. --Margaret A. Chang, Buxton School, Williamstown, MA
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