Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French

School Library Journal says (among other things) "Teachers will be able to use this novel for Earth Day discussions and can foster conversations on environmental activism of all types."

Please don't. This book is about activisim, yes. It's also about science, education, family relationships, initiative, curiousity, exploration, and wonder. It spoils it to make it educational!

Julian Carter-Li is spending the summer with his cold and unpleasant aunt and uncle while his free-spirited mother wanders around China. He knows they don't like him, but when he sees an e-mail with just how much they don't like him spelled out, he's devastated....and reads the next e-mail calling his uncle a jerk, which is pretty much how he feels.

And so begins a clandestine conversation with Robin Elder, a girl desperate to save the ancient
Redwood forest next to her house from Julian's uncle and the corporation he represents. At first, Julian and his friend Danny Lopez are just trying to save Julian from math camp. But they get drawn into Robin's problems and Julian especially gets drawn into the Elder's warm and loving family.

From an adult's point of view, the characters are somewhat one-dimensional. Good kids vs. the bad corporation, etc. But, um, excuse me SLJ, this is a kids' book and yep, that's how kids generally see people. Robin isn't interested in the other aspects of his nasty uncle's character - he just wants to get away from him. The deus ex machina at the end (which I won't tell you) is a little pat (ok, a lot pat), but this isn't meant to be a realistic story of environmental activisim, just a fun introduction. So happy endings are ok!

Included in Julian's adventures are plenty of fascinating snippets of information about redwood trees and their history. Be prepared to have more information on environmental activisim and the redwood forests because this book will whet readers' appetites for more.

And a homeschooling family that lives on an environmentally sustainable farm and has five kids but isn't involved in a cult and the parents aren't ex-hippies forcibly depriving their children of necessary socialization! French gets it exactly right - her homeschooling kids aren't all sweetness and light but they enjoy their life; they fit several homeschooling families I know who have chosen similar lifestyles.

Verdict: A fun story for kids who like some relationships and social elements in with their adventures and enjoy reading about something a little different.

ISBN: 978-0810983540; Published May 2009 by Amulet; Borrowed from the library

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