Canadian children's author Norma Charles worked as a librarian-teacher for over ten years before finally deciding to write full time. As the mother of four children—two boys and two girls—Charles has had plenty of experience with children, and that experience has translated into the novels The Accomplice and All the Way to Mexico, as well as several picture books.
The Accomplice, which was a Canadian Children's Book Centre Choice selection, tells an endearing story about Megan and her younger sister Jen, as the two struggle to decide between their biological parents. Megan's father arranges for Megan and Jen to come visit him and his new wife at their island home, even though she has not heard from him for months. She wonders when he persuades the two girls to keep the visit a secret from everyone, including their mother, but the air of mystery adds to the excitement of the trip. Finally, when they arrive on the island, the two sisters realize that their father intends to keep them at his remote home permanently, and Megan realizes that it is now up to her to get her sister and herself back to their mother's home safely.
Charles' descriptions of her protagonists' interactions and strained relationships add depth to the already intense plot of The Accomplice, according to several reviewers. Joanne de Groot commented in Resource Links that the characters' realistic struggles, when "combined with beautiful descriptions of life on a remote island off the west coast and suspense that builds throughout the story, will keep children reading until the end."
In All the Way to Mexico readers are once again confronted with a blended family, as twelve-year-old Jacob Armstrong finds himself along for the ride during his mother's camping-trip honeymoon. Jacob is not alone, however; in addition to his sister Minerva—who insists on blocking everyone else out in the car by listening to her CD player—Jacob's newly acquired stepbrothers also accompany the honeymooners on their long car ride from Vancouver, Canada, to Mexico. Jacob, who loves soccer and dreams of one day becoming a professional soccer player, is annoyed by Barney Finkle, who keeps telling annoying cow jokes, and Sam Finkle, who sniffs constantly and can't stop playing with his action figures. In addition, Jacob's mother and her new husband are acting like stereotypical "honeymooners." The only light at the end of the tunnel for Jacob is his hope of meeting up with children in Mexico who will play soccer with him, but this light is gradually doused by problems along the way.
Praising Charles for creating a likeable protagonist in Jacob, Elaine Rosepad commented in Resource Links that All the Way to Mexico is a "humorous" tale in which "children learn to appreciate each other and deal with difficulties as they arise." Although the novel's characters experience a host of disappointments during their journey, Susan Perren maintained that readers will fare far better, noting in her Globe & Mail review that Charles creates an enjoyable story that contains "small miracles of accommodation."
Biographical and Critical Sources
Globe & Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), September 6, 2003, Susan Perren, review of All the Way to Mexico, p. D14.
Quill and Quire, December, 1999, review of Sophie Sea to Sea, p. 38.
Resource Links, October, 1999, review of Runaway, pp. 24-25; December, 1999, review of Sophie Sea to Sea, p. 13; April, 2003, Joanne de Groot, review of The Accomplice, p. 9, and Fuzzy Wuzzy, p. 12; June, 2003, Elaine Rosepad, review of All the Way to Mexico, p. 10.
Book Rapport.com, http://www.bookrapport.com/ (February 5, 2004), "Norma Charles."