I enjoyed this spirited and step-by-step guide to growing into sailing a small boat while coping with a summer unlike any other. INTO THE WIND follows young Rusty, who has to attend summer school to make up for his poor maths, while his bossy sister Lizzy assumes responsibility over him. Their mom has come down with a serious depression. While Dad assures the kids that none of this is their fault, they still feel they should do something more to help when Mom has to go to a medical centre off their small town’s island.
Rusty escapes from loneliness by working on a small catboat he’s been gifted, getting it shipshape and learning how to do beginner sailing. That’s when he meets the individualistic senior artist lady in the wheelchair. Hazel Perkins likes to take the view of the marina, and sells paintings based on marine life. Since Rusty doesn’t believe he could or should take Hazel out in his boat – not yet, anyway – she offers him afternoon work around her neglected little house and garden. Hazel is wise enough to oblige Rusty to sit down and do his maths homework first, but she makes her own lemonade, and with the pocket money, Rusty can buy what he needs from the chandlers. So begins an unusual friendship, in which a boy with an absent mother finds a mentor and Hazel finds remembrance of her own youth.
Laura Jacobsen provides simple and effective drawings of the episodes, and the little house on Oak Lane is well described for us. So is the sailing, I have to add, and Rusty gradually becomes more confident and happy at his work. Lizzy and Dad each in their own way try to pull the family together, while Mom is being treated.
William Loizeaux has taken the unusual step of addressing mental illness with a book for the younger Young Adult reader. These days we expect kids to face life challenges, rather than shield them totally. The lessons in INTO THE WIND may help readers to understand the complexities of modern life. We get a strong sense that we should learn skills by steps, and achieve proficiency. Some readers will take the point that widowed Hazel is also lonely, and she needs to accomplish any remaining goals or desires before age catches up to her. This story is packed, then, with new words, positive thoughts and brave deeds, for all Rusty doesn’t need to fight any foes. I highly recommend INTO THE WIND for schools and families, or for that young hero in your life.
A character-driven novel about the unlikely friendship between a 10-year-old boy and an elderly woman. The old woman badgers the boy into taking her sailing, but when the weather turns bad, it becomes a wild sail. It becomes the last trip before she goes into the hospital where she dies: but not before the two of them share memories of their last sail together. Hazel helps build the boy's confidence during a tough time in his home life. Both moving and joyful, Into the Wind is a poignant story about loss and love in a boy's life, and the surprising and sustaining bonds that can grow between the old and young.