Vacationing children endure a thunderstorm in a dark forest, lose and find one another, and join an assortment of characters seeking the mysterious Clementine, who’s vanished in the woods.
After smuggling Macadamia, the small girl who lost Clementine, into their room, Mark, Annie, and Pudding head into the night. Soon fellow vacationers Eddie and Freddie, whom Mark has enlisted to stay with Macadamia, answer the call to adventure. Nearby, while his policeman dad alerts Constable Podger to the missing Clementine, Teddy—a Sherlock Holmes fan—sneaks out with his dog, Pickles, to search. As the thunderstorm reaches the woods, a tired journalist on his way to visit a friend suffers car trouble; the children are separated; and a falling tree mangles Podger’s motorbike. Throughout the ensuing muddy mayhem, Clementine proves elusive. Originally published in 1970 in Poland, the story shows its age, and the translators’ awkward efforts to update the dialogue don’t help. Children play “Red Indians,” and chubby Derek’s known as “Pudding” in this very English-feeling translation. Still, on balance strengths outweigh weaknesses. Butenko’s playful, humorous illustrations reflect Poland’s tradition of outstanding art for children. The setting is another highlight. The forest’s enduring majesty looms in powerful contrast over the scurrying characters engrossed in their worries and plans. The village of Saint Jude’s—where shoes are for indoors, kids adore mushrooms, and dessert’s a once-a-week treat—will feel exotic to young American readers.
A rare glimpse of childhood in a vanished world: Soviet-dominated, rural Poland. (Historical fiction. 8-10)