Award-winning author Shari Green at her home in Campbell River. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River author tells story of a child’s resilience amid wildfires

‘Missing Mike’ by Shari Green written in verse to help children process feelings stemming from crisis

An award-winning children’s author from Campbell River is garnering acclaim for her latest novel, which tells the story of a 10-year-old girl named Cara Donovan separated from her dog Mike by a raging wildfire in the fictional town of Pine Grove.

Missing Mike is a story that will be familiar to a growing number of children. Author Shari Green wrote the book during the wildfires of 2017, the worst year on record in terms of hectares burned in B.C. before 2018 broke that record.

People tell me, ‘Oh, it’s so timely,’” she said in an interview with the Mirror. “It’s terrible that it’s so timely, but it does seem to be our new normal.”

She researched the topic for the novel – which is written in free verse – by watching news footage and videos taken by evacuees, especially from the wildfires that forced some 80,000 people from their homes in Fort McMurray, Alta., in 2016.

In the story, the Donovans evacuate their home with no time to look for Cara’s beloved pet, but find themselves caught in traffic as the whole community flees. Time drags by as Cara gazes out the window:

“Two deer dash past the car / hurrying along the shoulder of the road / escaping faster than we are. / My heart races / to catch up.”

Green said she wrote the book in free verse primarily because it’s the form that comes most naturally to her, but also because the economy of words and blank space on the page may help children deal with the overwhelming feelings that come with crisis and loss.

“You sort of pare it right down to the heart of the story,” she said. “And that combined with the white space on the page, it’s like it’s giving kids time and space to process.”

READ MORE: Author Chevy Stevens is a powerhouse of her genre

And since the text is less dense than a story written in prose, it can also gives young readers a sense of satisfaction, as they quickly progress through the pages.

“You get kids who are finishing an entire book because the word count is less,” she said. “It’s great for their confidence as a reader.”

Words themselves are a theme in a book: clues for crossword puzzles intersperse the text, and the semantic difference between Mike being “abandoned” or “lost” becomes important for Cara as she loses hope for her animal friend.

“I guess it’s not surprising that as a writer, I get hung up on words and their connotations,” Green said. “But I think it arose more from the idea of people’s different concepts of home… we might all call it home but we actually mean very different things.”

As the story unfolds, Cara also deals with normal problems of being a kid, like the changing relationship with her teenage sister. Asked how she captured that childhood feeling, Green said that being the mother to four children might have helped, although her kids are all grown up now.

READ MORE: Courtenay author Paula Wild launches book about human coexistence with wolves

In writing children’s literature, it’s important to get back into the child’s mindset, Green said.

“They’ll recognize it right away if it’s not true to them,” she said.

Green works part-time at the Campbell River hospital as a licensed practical nurse, and part-time at home as a writer. Other middle-grade novels by Green include Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles (2016) and Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess (2017).

The latter won a number of awards and honours, including the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Middle School Book Award for 2018.

As for Missing Mike, the book is a nominee for the 2019 Silver Birch Award for fiction, which is handed out by the Ontario Library Association (OLA). The OLA’s Forest of Reading Kid Committee also selected Missing Mike for its 2018 summer reading list.

@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Some members of city council say the current plan for rebuilding the library isn’t in the community’s best interest, but the majority of council say it should go forward as is, so the motion to reexamine it was defeated. File photo/Campbell River Mirror
Re-examination of plan for new Campbell River library narrowly voted down by council

‘I haven’t heard one argument that does make sense for why that has to be the location’

A welcoming ceremony was held at the meeting of the SRD board April 14, where gifts were exchanged between KCFN Director Kevin Jules (left) and SRD Chair Brad Unger (right) to mark the historic occasion. Photo Submitted
KCFN officially joins SRD as full member

‘For KCFN, this has been a long journey and a long time coming’ says SRD board member Kevin Jules

Fish processing workers fillet farm-raised salmon in Surrey B.C. Photo courtesy BCSFA
Discovery Islands salmon farm removal impacts jobs in B.C.’s Lower Mainland: report

The City of Surrey is the hub of the salmon farming industry in Metro Vancouver

Island Heath has issued an overdose advisory for Campbell River. If someone has overdosed, administering naloxone can help. File photo
Overdose advisory issued for Campbell River

People using drugs advised to protect themselves

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Richmond RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng said, in March, the force received a stand-out number of seven reports of incidents that appeared to have “racial undertones.” (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
‘Racially motivated’ incidents on the rise in B.C’s 4th largest city: police

Three incidents in Richmond are currently being invested as hate crimes, says RCMP Chief Superintendent Will Ng

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including, YVR and land crossings should ‘not be left behind’

(Amandalina Letterio - Capital News)
Kelowna demonstrators show support for Vancouver Island logging activists

Two Kelowna men stood atop a pedestrian bridge on Harvey Avenue to raise awareness about old-growth forests

City workers from Duncan were busy recently putting up street signs in both Hul’q’umi’num’ and English. (Submitted photo)
Hul’q’umi’num street signs installed in downtown Duncan

Partnership with Cowichan Tribes sees English street names twinned with Indigenous language

Most Read