The Mask that Sang by Susan Currie

mask-that-sang-518kxm1cjsl__sx346_bo1204203200_The Mask that Sang

Susan Currie, Author

Second Story Press, Fiction, Sep. 6, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 9-12

Themes: Bullying, Native American heritage, Family Relationships, Orphans, Residential Schools

Opening: Faster, faster! Cass kept scrambling past garbage cans and over cracked pavement, although her legs were dead stumps and her lungs screamed. The boys were close behind her, the same four who chased her home every day.

Book Synopsis: When Cass Foster’s estranged grandmother unexpectedly leaves her house and savings to Cass and her mom, it’s just the thing they need to change their lives. Cass is being bullied at school, and her mom just lost her job—again—so they pack up and move in. With the gift come more questions than answers for Cass.  Why is her mom reluctant to live there? Why was this relative kept so secret? Why won’t her mother read the sealed letter from her own mother?

While exploring her new room, Cass finds an intriguing and powerful mask in a drawer and she is inexplicably drawn to it. A strange relationship grows between Cass and the mask; it sings her songs, shows her visions of past traumas and encourages her to be brave when facing bullies. When Cass finds the mask gone, her quest to get it back leads to an unexpected discovery about her family’s Cayuga heritage that will bring her and her mother into the arms of a community that’s been waiting for them.

Why I like this book:

Susan Currie works magic in this multi-layered novel, that culminates in a touching and spiritual tale about Cass and her mother finding their roots in a Native American community. It is a journey of discovery that is richly textured with themes of bullying, family relationships and finding “home” in a very tight and loving community.

The characters are diverse, believable, and memorable. Cass is spunky 12-year-old, who sprints home from school dodging bullies that shout insults about her shoes and clothing, call her names, throw objects at her and knock her to the pavement. She’s not sorry to say goodbye to her old school and apartment and move to her very own home and a start fresh at school. Mom is an orphan who never knew her mother.  She’s resentful and reluctant to accept the house and money her “mother” leaves her. Cass quickly makes friends with a boy named Degan Hill, who is a talented artist in her class. She discovers that Degan is Native American, when Ellis, a classroom bully, makes racial slurs. Cass finds a kindred spirit in Degan. She confides to Degan about the mask singing and telling her things. Degan tells Cass that the mask she finds is a “false face” that can have a good or evil spirits running through it. Their friendship grows and a trust forms between them. Change comes for all the characters.

Readers will find themselves richly rewarded by this satisfying tale. The plot is engaging and well-paced with the right amount of tension to keep readers interested. It sheds light on a dark past in Canadian history. Cass is drawn to the mask she finds in her drawer. She is distraught when it is missing from her drawer. Even though the mask is gone, it continues to sing to her, encourages her to be brave, shows her visions of a past she doesn’t understand and leads her to its hiding place.  I like how the author brings the story full circle. This is an emotionally honest story filled with heart.

I urge you to check out a picture book I reviewed Oct. 21, I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer. The story focuses on the Indigenous children who were taken from their families in the 1920s and put in “residential schools” where they were forced to forget their heritage.  It is a good companion book for The Mask that Sang.

Susan Currie is a winner of Second Story Press’ Aboriginal Writing Contest, resulting in this, her second book. Her first book was Basket of Beethoven, published in 2001. She has an MA in children’s literature and has been an elementary teacher for 17 years. Susan is adopted and after discovering a birth aunt a few years ago, she subsequently learned about her Cayuga heritage. The Mask that Sang grew out of her experience of discovering her roots.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

25 thoughts on “The Mask that Sang by Susan Currie

  1. You have discovered two books about an important subject. This one sounds like an excellent middle-grade book. I will put it on my TBR list for sure. I love the cover as well.

    • They both are important tackle subjects that are connected with a theme that impacts family relationships. The Mask That Sang is a compelling read that also involves the author’s heritage. This is an excellent novel for teens.

    • It is an important topic that reveals a dark part of Canada’s past with its Indigenous children. It is an engaging story for teens that also deals with bullying and prejudice. The ending is so compelling.

  2. You have intrigued me with your lovely review. I will definitely be recommending this book and will check out the related PB as well. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations to the author who not only discovered her heritage but also provided us with a wonderful story.

    • This book is so honest and filled with so much heart. The ending reveals a dark secret in Canada’s history. I love how the author discovered her own heritage as she researched and wrote this important novel.

  3. What an interesting book you’ve highlighted today. I can see how reading this with I am Not a Number will be so instructive. Thank you for bringing such important books to my attention.

    • When I saw the books, I knew I had to run them close together because of certain overlaps in the stories. Teens will resonate with The Mask That Sang on many levels and learn some history too.

    • Just had to run the PB and novel close together because of the overlapping themes. However, each story is very different. This MG novel is multi-layered and will resonate with teens. I hope you check them out.

  4. There aren’t many MG books about Native American culture and I think it’s especially important that the author is Native American. How interesting that this book grew out of her own experience in discovering her roots.

    • Yes, it does add credibility to the story. I am impressed with the many books Second Story Press (Canadian) publishes about the Indigenous cultures and First Nation. They also publish a lot of multicultural books and stories American publishers don’t publish.

  5. This sounds really intriguing. I like how finding her heritage and a kindred spirit helps her deal with bullying. And it’s nice to see a Canadian setting as well. Thanks for featuring this! There are far too few books about Native American culture for this age group.

    • This is such a special story that reveals a dark past in Canada’s history. Second Story Press (Canada) publishes a number of Indigenous and First Nation books. I was so happy to find this MG novel.

  6. This sounds like a really interesting book, Patricia, and even more so because of the information about the author that you have shared. I was thinking of its similarity to “I am not a Number” as I read your post. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of these books. They have important stories to tell.

  7. This looks like a great book all around. The story is a bit dark but the message is real. I really try to get my kids to read books with friendships and caring for others, this one would be a good look into even though someone is different they deserve to be seen as fairly as others. They are reading Frances Crossno’s book Cole’s Perfect Puppy, a great read about this kind of friendship.

    • I hope your kids enjoy this important story. It has a tad of magical realism with it so that will spark their interest. Thanks for the recommendation about “Cole’s Perfect Puppy.”

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