Breslau and its long-discussed new Hwy. 7 form the backdrop of the second novel penned by Canadian writer Yolanda Ridge. A follow-up to Trouble in the Trees, Road Block takes 11-year-old Brianna (Bree) Bridges from her Vancouver home and drops her in an environment familiar to local readers.
Writing for kids in the 8- to 11-year-old bracket, Ridge introduced Bree as an involved young activist in Trouble in the Trees, set in Vancouver. With Road Block, Bree’s plan for a quiet summer after Grade 6 takes a turn when she’s sent to Ontario to stay with her grandmother.
Once she has arrived at her grandmother’s farm in Breslau, it doesn’t take long for Bree to find a cause she can work on to satisfy her sense of justice – her grandmother’s farm is about to be destroyed by a superhighway.
The story has real-life parallels. Now living in the Vancouver area, Ridge was born in Ontario and would visit her grandmother’s farm near Breslau. Ever since she was young girl visiting her grandmother’s farm on Hwy. 7 there has been talk about expanding the highway and how that would affect her grandmother’s farmland. That issue formed the bases of the new book.
“I was trying to come up with something unique and different and that is when I hit upon the premise of Road Block. It is something that is happening all over with highways going through farmland and taking over rural property,” said Ridge during a phone interview.
Bree is meant to be a role model for young people who care about social causes and want to make a difference.
Although the characters are fictional the setting is real, said Ridge.
Children living in the region will be able to relate to the places and events described in the book, and the prospect of a farm about to be destroyed by development is a scenario that’s been played out more than once in the area.
“The character flies into the Breslau airport and goes to the Kitchener library – there are quite a few local references. Anyone from the area would know the locations described in the book,” she said.
Ridge became a children’s writer by accident. She was a genetic counsellor and spent 10 years writing scientific articles, educational material before becoming a mother of twins in 2006.
“I had kids and never returned to my job and decided to try my hand at writing for kids as that is what I was surrounded by. The inspirations for my stories are all around me and my writing has become more creative.”
Ridge found it was easier to get published writing for middle-grade children and once she had the idea for her first story she took that idea and ran with it writing her first book, Trouble in the Trees. The book was well received and Ridge wrote the follow-up, releasing Road Block this spring.
“Children seem to relate to the character and they understand what the character is going through. They seem to really embrace the story and children know when they see something that is unfair and want to speak up about it,” said Ridge. “Children want to be listened to by adults and that is the appeal of the book since adults do listen to her in the stories.”