by William Bell

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Garnet Havelock was always a bit different from other guys. He never quite fit in and he was okay with that. Now, in his final year of high school, he’s just marking time, waiting to get out into the real world.

When a mysterious girl transfers to his school Garnet thinks he might have found the girl of his dreams, if only he could get her to talk to him.

As Garnet struggles to win over one girl, another girl is trying to get his attention – unfortunately she lived over 150 years ago. Garnet becomes fascinated by her history and that of the black community she belonged to. As he draws closer to the truth, he uncovers a horrifying chapter in his town’s history, and discovers the ways in which deep-seated prejudices and persecution from the past can still reverberate in the present.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780770428754
Publisher: Doubleday Canada
Publication date: 05/13/2003
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.75(d)

About the Author

William Bell, author, editor and educator, holds master's degrees in both education and literature. He has been a high school English department head in Ontario and an instructor at universities in Harbin and Beijing, China, and at the University of British Columbia. Award-winning author of ten books for young people including Zack, which won the Mr. Christie's Book Award, Bell lives in Orillia, Ontario with writer Ting-xing Ye.

Read an Excerpt


It was Ms. Clare who first noticed something was wrong with me. Three times a week she would come into our grade four class and teach us French. She was a short, blonde, overly energetic woman who reminded me of an elf.

After the first day or so, I tuned her out completely. It wasn’t anything political; I didn’t hate French culture or cooking or the tattered posters of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower that Ms. Clare had tacked onto the bulletin board beside the display of “Fish of the Great Lakes.” It was the repetition and the monotonous chanting. Bonjour. Comment vous appellez-vous? Je m’appelle Garnet, and so on. And on and on.

Ms. Clare, in her chirpy new-teacher voice, would lead the recitations, occasionally throwing out a question in French that left us blank-faced and confused, and I would look out the window or draw pictures in my notebook or rest my cheek on my palm and doze. If she spoke to me, I’d ignore her.

One day late in September, Mom and Dad got a letter from the school. Dad tore it open at the kitchen table.

“It says Garnet is hard of hearing,” he read. “Or in their words, ‘Auditorily differently enabled.’ They want to move him to the front of the room and bring in a consultant to test his hearing.”

My mother took a sip of her wine. “What’s wrong with those people, anyway? Garnet, have you been giving your teacher a hard time?”

I gave her what I hoped was a charming grin and cupped one ear with my hand. “Pardon?” I said.


In grade five there was Mr. Whitney, a thin middle-aged man with a face like a horse, who always smelled of cigarettes and cheap aftershave. He would have been happier in the army. He liked to have us line up for this and line up for that, to hand in our notebooks in alphabetical order while he stood at the front of the room tapping a meter stick against the side of his shoe.

In his class, I developed a wander. Right in the middle of a reading session or a science lesson I’d slide out of my chair – a crime equal to murder in Whitney’s class – and stand looking out the window or slouch over to the bookshelf where he kept stacks of out-of-date geographic magazines. Whitney would turn pink with rage and order me, “Sit down in your seat and stay there.” I always obeyed the first part, but sooner or later I’d be on the move again.
The second letter home of my school career was opened by my mother. She and Dad and I were out on the back porch enjoying a mid-October sunny afternoon.

“It says here that Garnet has ADD,” Mom said, squinting at the page in the bright sunlight.
“Which is?” Dad asked, not looking up from the newspaper.

“Which is Attention Deficit Disorder.”

“Ah. Which means?”

“Which means, you ignoramus, that he –” here Mom read from the letter, “‘can’t concentrate or stay on task.’”

“Is this the same boy who can sit in the boat for hours fishing, and not say a word?” Dad asked. “The guy who can while away half a Saturday morning drawing?”

“He’s disruptive, according to Mr. Whitney. And disobedient.”

Dad cast a critical glance at me. “Well?”

I had been polishing my pocket watch, a present from my parents a couple of years before.

“Disruptive, definitely not. Disobedient, maybe,” I said. “What am I supposed to do when he gives us stupid orders?”

“Don’t use that word. It’s disrespectful.”

“Oh, heavens,” I said, rolling my eyes dramatically. “A third D.”

“And don’t be a smart-aleck,” Mom put in, not too seriously. “You know what your father means. Mr. Whitney may not be your favorite person –”

“You can say that again.”

“– but you have to show respect.”

About a week later I was hauled up in front of the principal, who held in his hand a wrinkled piece of paper.

“I take it you drew this,” he began.

“Um, possibly.”

“It might have been smarter not to sign it,” he said sarcastically.

“Does this mean a letter home?”

This one was opened by Dad, and this time we were in the family room. Dad had built a fire, collected the mail and newspaper from the front door, and collapsed onto the sofa, prepared to read for a while. Mom was working on an article for a magazine, tapping away at the computer by the window. Dad read the letter, glanced at the piece of paper that came with it, got up and handed it to Mom.

She started to giggle.

“Now, Annie, how can we discipline this boy if you’re not going to be serious?”

The caricature, which I had drawn hastily while Whitney had his back to us writing “Rules for the Field Trip” on the board, showed him sitting on the toilet, boxer shorts around his ankles and a strained look on his face. The caption said, “Maybe you should try working it out with a pencil.” It was pretty juvenile, I had to admit.

The cartoon earned me another label: non-compliant.


Strangely enough, I graduated, with a diploma signed by the area superintendent and a fairly negative attitude toward my school experience. It hadn’t been all bad, but I had never been able, for some reason, to work up the kind of enthusiasm or “school spirit” that a lot of other kids did.

I got one more label before I left Hillcrest Public School.

“It says here he’s gifted,” Mom read from what I hoped was the final letter home.

Dad yawned. “Really?”

“Yes. They tested him.”

“Gifted, eh?”


“Gee, it only took them eight years to find out.”

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Stones 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Alex_Margaret More than 1 year ago
Please remember these are solely my ideas on the book. You don't need to agree. Everyone has their own opinion. Reading books for school can be a bummer. Especially when you get this book. Okay, so it wasn't all bad. You did get to learn some history about Canada that may or may not be true... I felt this story lagged in its writing style and in character development. Garnet seemed fully developed the first two chapters. And Raphaella, please don't get me started. At the end of the novel when she tells Garnet her "big secret" that's really nothing, she keeps insisting that if Garnet knew the truth about her he'd "break-up with her". Which isn't true. 'Cause Garnet knew about the secret the entire time just didn't know that was the "big secret". The story was contemporary then took a big veer to the left (or right) and turned paranormal. I only knew it was paranormal because someone told me about the ghost you see in the novel. Now, why oh why would there be ghosts? (Yes, there are more than one). This was the universal question for me when I finished this book. Nothing was explained in the end of this book. It didn't tell you why the ghosts continued to haunt that area in the forest. This book was to unsupported, I believe. Then William Bell started to throw in some romance on the side. I just found to many stories in the book to actually focus on the main one. Which is... yeah, still working on that. Rating: 1.2/10 Parental Rating: 14+