Footprints (Breakwater/Jesperson 2008) has always been one of the stories I’ve been proudest of, with (forgive my conceit) its memorable characters, its driving action that builds to a stunning denouement, and its dealing with the timely issue of how you should – and if you should – pursue a cause, the rightness of which you believe passionately in, when all avenues of legitimate protest are rebuffed or ignored or derided.
Reviewers at the time of the YA novel’s release seemed to agree with my assessment, Joan Sullivan in The Telegram calling the story “astute, contemporary and engaging”, and Darrell Squires in The Western Star commenting, “Footprints is an excellent, character-driven short novel for young adults; it’s relevant and contemporary.”
But the novel never quite took off, and of all my nineteen books, it seems inexplicably (to me, anyway) to be the least read.
So it was a treat for me recently to visit the lively and erudite students of Barnhill Memorial School in Saint John, New Brunswick, and find 375 middle level students who were not only reading Footprints, but also responding creatively to it as they discussed and delved into its issues.
Here (above and below) are some of the signs that greeted me as students, with teacher Charles Robinson, walked in for the first session of the day.
The placards, held in the story by the central characters, Drumgold, Isora, and Harper, protest the privatization of their favourite beach, the incident that sets in motion the escalating series of events that propel the story.
So I thank Barnhill students for choosing Footprints to read, as well as my Walker’s Runners, Falling Star, and Black Water Rising, and for affording me a happy and worthwhile and fulfilling day.
Here (below) is the prologue of Footprints …
She glides from the shelter of the trees, clutching the device carefully in one hand, and is across the road, pressed against the wall of the cottage grounds, before the boys have time to worry about someone seeing her. Keeping low, she peers around the stone gatepost. No sign of Anderson’s men. She eases herself up until she can reach the security panel, and presses in the code. She flattens herself back against the wall as the tall wrought-iron gates swing silently open. She has ten seconds before they close of their own accord. She peers around the gatepost again. Still no sign of life. With a glance back to where the boys wait in the woods, she sprints to the barn and slides into the space between it and the high garden wall. As she lowers the device towards the hole under the barn, the timer already set, she reflects: How did a walk on the beach lead to this?
And here’s the closing sentence (not a spoiler!), that serves as an epilogue:
Harper, glancing at his friends again, wonders which of them he fears the most.