The Mysterious Benedict Society Quartet // by Trenton Lee Stewart

I first read The Mysterious Benedict Society back in 2007, when it was first published.  I can’t remember how I initially found it – probably browsing about the library – but I enjoyed it so much that I purchased it soon after.  The fantastic cover art and interior illustrations drew me in, and the story was strong enough to make the read well worth it.  Since then, I’ve read this book several times and enjoyed it more with each reading.

//published 2007//

Our story begins with Reynie, a boy whose parents died before he remembers, and who now lives in an orphanage.  Reynie is basically a genius, incredibly intelligent and keen to learn.  One day, he and his tutor are reading the newspaper – as they do most days – when they come across a rather odd ad:  “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”  Reynie responds, and soon finds himself involved in a series of tests – and then even more.

This is a children’s book, so much of the writing is rather simple.  However, Stewart has not dumbed-down his story, which has a fabulous villain and lots of action.  As an adult, I found small snippets of it to be verging on polemic, but in some ways I think the almost-spelling-out fits in with the age of the targeted audience.  Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a preachy book by any means.  Reynie and the trio with whom he soon joins forces (The Mysterious Benedict Society – Sticky, Kate, and Constance) infiltrate a school for the gifted that may or may not be a mere cover for something much, much more sinister.

I love the bit where the kids are first entering the school.  A couple of the older students, Jillson and Jackson, are showing them around.

“It sounds like there are no rules here at all,” Sticky said.

“That’s true, George,” said Jillson.  “Virtually none, in fact.  You can wear whatever you want, just so long as you have on trousers, shoes, and a shirt.  You can bathe as often as you like or not at all, provided you are clean every day in class.  You can eat whatever and whenever you want, so long as it’s during meal hours at the cafeteria.  You’re allowed to keep the lights on in your room as late as you wish until ten o’clock each night.  And you can go wherever you want around the Institute, so long as you keep to the paths and the yellow-tiled corridors.”

“Actually,” Reynie observed, “those all sound like rules.”

Jackson rolled his icy blue eyes.  “This is your first day, so I don’t expect you to know much, Reynard.  But this is one of the rules of life you’ll learn at the Institute: Many things that sound like rules aren’t actually rules, and it always sounds like there are more rules than there really are.”

And I do appreciate Stewart’s apt summation of government schools:

Rote memorization of lessons was discouraged but required; class participation was encouraged but rarely permitted.

All in all, The Mysterious Benedict Society is a fun and engaging story with relatable characters and a solid plot, yet also manages to be thoughtful at a level that is challenging for both its target audience of middle schoolers and older readers as well.  I highly recommend it.  5/5.

//published 2008//

//published 2009//

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma are also enjoyable reads, but not quite as engaging as the first book.  I hadn’t read these two as often as the first book, so I really enjoyed delving back into them.  The entire cast of characters returns for these books as the pursuit of the villain from the first book continues.  These two books lack the deeper level of the first book, but are still well-paced and fun stories, and a lot of the questions from the first book are answered.  I would have appreciated a slightly more involved epilogue, but for the most part solid 4/5 reads.

//published 2012//

The final book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict is a prequel that looks at a formative season in the childhood of Mr. Benedict.  This is actually probably my second-favorite of the four books.  I really like that Nicholas isn’t a perfect kid, and his character development is done very well, especially the way that he learns to see that everyone has a motivation for what he does, and that understanding that motivation before passing judgment is an important part of life.  Another 5/5.

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February Minireviews

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg

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//published 2007//

So growing up, Konigsburg’s The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was one of my favorite books.  As an adult, I discovered her book The View from Saturday and loved that one, too – a lot (I even read and reviewed it again!).  But for me, The Mysterious Edge just didn’t work the way her other two books did.  The plot is disjointed and strange, the characters inconsistent and unrealistic, and the entire premise centers around a lot of coincidences.

I really wanted to like this book – two kids becoming friends while helping an elderly lady clean out her house that’s full of interesting stuff – doesn’t that sound like fun??  But the old lady, Mrs. Zender, is really weird, and so are both of the boys – and not in the realistic, quirky way of some of Konigsburg’s characters in Saturday – just weird, weird: the kind of weird that leaves you scratching your head in puzzlement.

A lot of the story centers around a picture that one of the boys finds, a drawing of a naked woman.  Now we’re informed that this is art, so this is a “nude” which is different from just someone being naked.  But…  it still felt really inappropriate for the age of the characters and the intended readers, and, once again, was just kind of weird.  Like why does the picture have to be of a naked person??

There are almost some good discussions about how people perceive us and how we perceive ourselves, about people who are rich and people who aren’t, about whether or not a government should be able to decide what is or isn’t art.  But none of those conversations really go anywhere, so the whole book feels awkward and stunted.

All in all, 1/5 for a book that I wanted to like but just couldn’t.  I’m still planning to read some more of Konigsburg’s books because I have enjoyed a couple of them so very much, but I don’t see myself ever revisiting this one.

American Gardening Series: Container Gardening by Suzanne Frutig Bales

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//published 1993//

This is one of those random books that I picked up for a quarter at a library book sale at some point.  It’s not a terribly thick book, but it does have a lot of photographs and plenty of good information about choosing plants for container gardens and then keeping them alive after you’ve planted them!  Bales has a lot of enthusiasm for container gardening as it is very flexible and can be done in almost any amount of space.

I’ve been working through several gardening books this month, and I always glean some new tips and ideas.  This one is well worth the shelf space as a great reference book.  I especially enjoyed the chapters that focused on planning container gardens – I think that a lot of times people go into container gardening assuming that you just sort of jam some plants in and it will look great, but this book spends some time talking about not just the color of the plants you are planting, but texture, size, and growing requirements.  Definitely recommended if this is a topic you’re interested in learning more about.

The Princess by Lori Wick

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//published 1999//

This is a (multiple time) reread for me, and I have a more detailed review here.  Sometimes I just need some happy fluff, and this book always fits the bill.  It involves my favorite trope (marriage than love), and just is a happy, gentle little tale that I have read many times and yet always find enjoyable.  I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump here at the end of February, what with starting my new job and being super tired all the time, so The Princess helped get me through!

Freckles // by Gene Stratton Porter

Well, my friends, the time has arrived!  My first review for 20 Books of Summer!  First, a brief update on the List!

20booksfinalMy original post about 20 Books of Summer, being hosted by Cathy746, is here.

Here is the list of 20.  Links are to GoodReads, and titles that have been crossed off have already been read and are awaiting review…

As you can see, I am now on Book #5 (Life or Death), so things are tooling right along!

And now for Freckles. 

Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter

This book was originally published in 1904.  Its setting, the great Limberlost Swamp, is in eastern Indian, between Fort Wayne and I-70, and parts of it are still a park today.  I’ve always wanted to visit but never have gotten around to it, despite the fact that it is only a few hours away.  Porter, a passionate naturalist, was unafraid to brave the terrors of this virgin forest.  With a revolver and a sack of photography equipment, she spent a great deal of time exploring the swamp, photographing and making notes on its natural residents.  Porter wrote numerous articles on nature, several nature studies, and a dozen novels.  Even in her novels, Porter did her best to create a love not just for her characters, but for the nature that surrounded them.

Porter does an excellent job with this in Freckles.  Her story of a lonely, orphaned young man, who is striving to make his way in the world, is balanced by the beautiful and terrifying vastness of the Limberlost.  Without getting too carried away, she still manages to convey the beauty of the birds, flowers, and other animals that live there.  Her sense of place is fantastic, and the setting is really a large part of what makes this story.  In a way, the Limberlost is it own individual – and very important – character in the story.

Our tale begins with an unlikely hero –

Freckles came down the corduroy that crosses the lower end of the Limberlost.  At a glance, he might have been mistaken for a tramp, but he was truly seeking work.  He was intensely eager to belong somewhere and to be attached to almost any sort of enterprise that would furnish him food and clothing.

In this first chapter, Freckles (in his early 20’s or possibly late teens) comes across a lumber camp.  He asks if they are seeking workers, and even though the cook, whom he approaches, says the boss couldn’t use Freckles, Freckles insists on speaking to the boss for himself.

“Mr. McLean, here’s another man wanting to be taken on in the gang, I suppose,” [the cook] said.

“All right,” came the cherry answer.  “I never needed a good man more than I do just now.” …

“No use of your bothering with this fellow,” volunteered the cook. “He hasn’t but one hand.”

And so we are introduced to Freckles’s other great handicap.  Not only is he orphaned and penniless, he struggles to find work because, as an infant, someone cut off his hand.  In a passionate interview with the boss, however, Freckles convinces McLean to give him a shot.  McLean is still logging a tract, but has purchased his next.  Within the new tract are several very valuable trees, and he needs a man to walk the fence twice a day – seven miles per lap – to make sure that the trees are not stolen.  McLean is extra concerned because another man from his crew recently quit, threatening to steal trees.  Black Jack is quite the villain, a man who knows the swamp and its secrets, hates McLean, and intends to have his vengeance by stealing the valuable lumber…!!!

Freckles is hired, and despite his initial terror of the swamp – which is full of rattlesnakes, cesspools, insects, and other dangerous things – and a hard adjustment to hiking fourteen miles a day (!), he makes good.  The rest of the story is Freckles, working hard to protect the lumber no matter what.  Freckles is the ideal hero of the early 1900’s novel – loyal, upright, responsible, brave, truthful, hardworking.  I’m not really sure why such heroes have gone out of style.  Freckles is no sissy, and would make an excellent role model.

It’s a funny thing, but despite Porter’s enthusiasm and love for the Limberlost, no character in her story ever suggests that the swamp shouldn’t be logged.  The attitude is definitely a reflection of its time.  McLean is never presented as a villain or a terrible man – he is simply doing his job and trying to do it well – a job which involves logging acres of virgin woods.

In the course of the story, we also meet the Bird Woman, Porter’s way of writing herself into the story.  The Bird Woman, whose name we never learn, is an avid naturalist who loves to photograph her subjects.  For the summer, she’s taken on an apprentice of sorts, a young woman whose name we also never learn.  When Freckles first sees her, he dubs her the Swamp Angel, and Angel she remains for the rest of the tale.

That Freckles falls madly in love with Angel should come as no surprise.  That Freckles believes himself – a penniless, one-handed orphan, in case you’ve forgotten – unworthy of the love of a beautiful creature like the Angel, should also be no surprise.  Still, despite using most of the normal cliches, Porter still spins an enjoyable little love story.  The Black Jack angle is quite exciting, and if Porter falls into the trap of her good guys being very, very good, while her bad guys are very, very bad – well, sometimes it’s good to read a story without much ambiguity.

Although Porter is wont to go off into paragraph-long raptures regarding the beauty and goodness of the Angel, she has still written a character who is no simpering maid sitting about waiting to be rescued.  Angel dashes about the swamp, shoots a gun, charms the bad guy so that she can escape for help, and then rides a bicycle miles across the rough corduroy to bring assistance to Freckles.  She is brave, intelligent, kind, and basically all the same qualities as Freckles.  Angel is always feminine but never weak.

The other characters are good as well, even when Porter doesn’t flesh them out a great deal.  Freckles stays with the Duncans, and this first glimpse he has into a loving family home is touching without being pathetic.

There is plenty of action, with Freckles adjusting to the Limberlost, the love story between Freckles and Angel, a rare type of bird nesting in the swamp, and (of course) the evil Black Jack lurking about, waiting to steal trees!

For me, the weakest part of the story takes place after the action leaves the Limberlost.  The part where Angel discovers Freckles’s heritage – through a series of perfectly-timed coincidences – feels very contrived and unnecessarily melodramatic.  Consequently, the last few chapters saw me rolling my eyes a great deal.

Still, this story is an easy 4/5.  It is classic literature for its time, an excellent story, and the setting is impeccably described.

Babe the Gallant Pig // by Dick King-Smith

So over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern: if I read the book first, I love the book more.  If I see the movie first, I love the movie more.  It’s strange but true.  Something about those first impressions, I think.

There are, of course, exceptions.  Actually, the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice comes to mind.  I don’t exactly love it more – but when I read Pride & Prejudice, the BBC actors ARE the book characters!  But dearly beloved books, like The Hundred and One Dalamations and Little Women, just to name a few, have been utterly destroyed by the movies.  Some movie adaptations I can get through by pretending that it’s a completely different story that just happens to have the same title (The Hundred and One Dalamatians, actually), but others fill me with such rage that I can’t. Even. Handle. It.

Then there are the weird, rare occasions where I actually like the movie better.  The most obvious example is The Princess Bride.  While the book is actually quite fabulous and witty, it’s a little more cynical and cold than the movie.  The movie version captures the intelligence and delightful dialogue of the book, while coming across as much warmer and lighthearted.

All of that rambling brings us, in due course, to Babe the Gallant Pig.  I first read this book as a child.  The first King-Smith book I discovered was actually The Fox Busters, which is, as an aside, absolutely brilliant.  I soon realized that King-Smith was a (very) prolific author, and devoured many of his other stories.  Some were rather meh reads, but others, like The Queen’s Nose, The Water Horse, Harry’s Mad, and Babe, became instant favorites.

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//published 1983//

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Babe is the story of a sheep farmer who wins a pig at a fair.  Farmer Hogget has every intention of feeding the pig out and slaughtering him for Christmas, but Babe becomes close friends with Hogget’s border collie, Fly.  His friendship with Fly leads Babe to try his best to be a pig who herds sheep: a sheep-pig.  The story unwinds delightfully and gently.  Babe is guaranteed a long life when he rescues the flock from sheep rustlers, and, in the end, his sheep-pig dream is realized, too.

King-Smith’s books frequently come through almost more as outlines of stories than full-fledged books.  They’re children’s books, so that’s part of it.  While all of his stories could use a little more fleshing out, he still manages to give clear character sketches with just a few lines.

“I knows that,” said Mrs. Hogget, “because I’m late now with all these cakes and jams and pickles and preserves as is meant to be on the Produce Stall this very minute, and who’s going to take them there, I’d like to know, why you are, but afore you does, what’s that noise?”

The squealing sounded again.

“That noise?”

Mrs. Hogget nodded a great many times.  Everything that she did was done at great length, whether it was speaking or simply nodding her head.  Farmer Hogget, on the other hand, never wasted his energies or his words.

“Pig,” he said.

My edition has delightful pen-and-ink drawings by Mary Rayner that really add a lot to the story.  Illustrations are especially important in children’s  books, and I am always happy to find ones that are simple, realistic, and actually follow the story.

There isn’t a lot of depth to Babe, but it is still a wonderful little book that I highly recommend.

But what about the movie??  Well, I simply cannot decide whether I prefer the book or the movie.  The movie adds a lot to the story, actually, by introducing several extra characters, such as Ferdinand the duck, Rex (Fly’s mate), and the evil Cat.  None of these exist in the original story, but they work really well in the movie.  The movie does a great job of retaining the spirit and basic storyline of the book, while fleshing it out a great deal.

Honestly, what holds me back from wholeheartedly endorsing the movie is the fact that, in the movie, the Hoggets  have grandchildren, and they are so obnoxious. Unbelievably obnoxious.  The Hoggets children spend a lot of time nagging their parents about how the Hoggets need to “get with the times” and embrace technology and modernization.  Farmer Hogget spends hours carefully constructing an absolutely beautiful dollhouse for his granddaughter who, when she opens it on Boxing Day, responds by wailing and screaming that it isn’t like the one she saw on the telly.  UGH.

The silly thing, the movie on the whole is absolutely delightful. It’s so well done.  All the animal characters are fantastic, the narration wonderful, and Farmer and Mrs. Hogget are EXACTLY as one would picture them.  But those grandchildren, and the way the Hogget’s children are so disdainful about their parents’ life just really is quite terrible.

So, final verdict?  Definitely read the book, because it’s only about a hundred pages (full of pictures) and adorable.  Then watch the movie, because it’s great, too.  Just fast forward through the big where the Hogget’s family comes to visit for Christmas.

ReRead: The View from Saturday // by E.L. Konigsburg

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//published 1996// A Newbery Medal winner //

I first read this absolutely fabulous book in April 2014, and I fell in love.  Konigsburg’s writing is masterful and perfect in every way.

This is one of those books that it sounds like I should hate, as there really isn’t a great deal of plot, and it’s combined with multiple first-person narratives and a completely wonky timeline.  But Konigsburg has the knack of being able to tell a story within a story, while weaving life-lessons in a way that you barely realize you are learning them until you get to the end and find yourself chewing on the book for days afterwards.

One of the stories, the one that ties the others together, is the story of four sixth-graders who comprise their class’s quiz bowl team – a team that beat not only the other sixth grade teams, not only the seventh and eighth grade teams, but have also won district and gone on to state: unprecedented for their age.  The question everyone asks is simple: how did their teacher, Mrs. Olinski, choose them?

Throughout the book, some of the story is told in third person, and there is a first-person chapter for each of the students.  Each child has had something happen to him or her in the past year, something that has changed who they are, has changed their perspective on life.  They are not necessarily events that, objectively, are huge or momentous.  They are, for the most part, everyday circumstances.  But, strangely enough, it is usually everyday circumstances that can change the trajectory of our lives.

A lot of reviews I have read for this book are negative.  People seem to either love it or hate it.  The people who hate it say that it is pointless and disjointed.  And they are right in the sense that there is not necessarily a linear story being told, and so there isn’t exactly a beginning or an end.  But it is a story nonetheless.  This book is one that embraces the realization that life is about giving and accepting, finding and losing, asking questions and providing answers – in short, fitting into your life is about learning to find balance within it.

I wanted to walk the road between Sillington House and mine.  I wanted to mark the distance slowly.  Something had happened at Sillington House …  Had I gained something at Sillington House?  Or had I lost something there?  The answer was yes.

Life itself is not linear, and has no clear beginnings or endings.  Even our births and deaths are not truly our beginnings or endings.  Sometimes the answers to our questions are more questions, and sometimes we find answers to questions we didn’t even know we were asking.

I highly recommend this book. Although it is a short read, it is worth reading slowly.  It is a book to savor and contemplate, and is one that is worth reading more than once.  5/5.

The Man in the Brown Suit // by Agatha Christie

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//published 1924//

Sometimes, when I am reading what other people think about Agatha Christie, I read a lot of flack about her spy novels.  Unrealistic, they said.  Improbable.  A bit silly.  A little ridiculous.  Well, those people are absolutely correct, but that doesn’t make the books any less fun.  If anything, Christie’s spy novels are my very favorites.  I love the cloak and dagger silliness, and the humor in those books is always set at perfect.

The Man in the Brown Suit is one of Christie’s earlier novels, and it is one of my all-time favorites.  I have read it multiple times, and never get tired of the humor and theatrics of the story.  Sir Eustace is a fantastic voice, while Anne’s narrative is also fabulous.  Christie weaves the two first-person narratives in a way that keeps both voices completely distinct.  I never have a moment’s confusion as to whose perspective I am reading.

Do I have to suspend belief every time I read it?  Yes, absolutely, but I just don’t care because the story is so much fun.  That’s not to say that there isn’t any grit to the tale.  There are definitely moments of tension and adventure, but it all just makes the big reveal that much more dramatic.

Published shortly after World War I, it’s a strong theme throughout, both in the obvious plot points (evil Germans, for one) and the background of a culture attempting to recover from a time of desperation and, at times, despair.  I love little things that set the book in its time, like the sending of cables and the fact that Anne and her father have a maid even though they have almost no money.  Christie always does a really wonderful job of writing her books in their time.  Read this book 90 years after it was published, much of it is still relevant and the story is still fabulous, but it is also unmistakably set in the early 1920’s, and I love that.  For me, books aren’t timeless because they have no time, but because the story transcends its time even as it embraces it.

All in all, a fabulous little Christie tale that I highly recommend, especially if you’re looking for a bit of an escape.  5/5.

‘Snow Dog’ and ‘Wild Trek’ // by Jim Kjelgaard

Well, in my rereading of all the Kjelgaard books on my shelf, I saved my two favorites for last.  Wild Trek is possibly the first Kjelgaard book I ever read – either this one or Lion Houndboth of which were at my grandma’s house when I was a little girl.  While Lion Hound had my dad’s name scrawled on the frontispiece, my hardcover of Wild Trek (that Grandma gave me) is a Scholastic Book Club edition with “Cedar Heights School” stamped inside: my grandma’s mother was a schoolteacher at Cedar Heights, and this was one of her books.

As a girl, Wild Trek completely enamored me.  Later, though, I discovered that it was actually a sequel!  Snow Dog is the first in this duology starring Link Stevens and his half-wild dog, Cheri.  Snow Dog opens with the introduction of a huge black wolf.

As large as a Great Dane, the wolf was in his battle-scarred prime.  His ears were ripped and torn from a thousand fights.  A ragged scar that ran from the base of his left ear to his left shoulder had grown in to pure white hair.

//published 1948// Cheri and the black wolf fight to the death on the cover of the 'Famous Dog Stories' edition!

//published 1948// Cheri and the black wolf fight to the death on the cover of the ‘Famous Dog Stories’ edition! //

Kjelgaard goes on to tell us the scar was earned when a man shot at the wolf and almost killed him.  That shot granted the wolf a deep hatred of men and their dogs, and when opportunity presented itself – the wolf killed a man.  Now the leader of a pack, the black wolf still hates men, and though he sees few of them in his wilderness, he knows that he would kill again if he had the chance.

Our next scene is of Link traipsing to his winter cabin in the wilderness (presumably in Canada somewhere) with his five pack dogs.  The newest addition to his team, Queen, is a large dog – “a hundred-pound female whose outlines suggested a strong dash of both Husky and Irish wolfhound,” and she is due to give birth to a litter of puppies any day.  Link, a young man who makes his living by running traplines, is determined to win Queen’s confidence and affection, but she is still aloof and wary, thanks to a long history of harsh masters, one of whom killed her last litter of puppies.  Of course, Link doesn’t know the details of Queen’s past, but he has every intention of helping her raise her pups, as he believes that they can become valuable trail dogs as well.  However, deciding that she cannot trust him, Queen runs away that night, while Link is asleep.  She gives birth to her three puppies under a windfall far off the trail, and although Link searches for her, he is unable to find her and is forced to continue down the trail to his winter cabin.

As the story unwinds, we follow the birth and life of one of Queen’s puppies.  Eventually, when he is introduced into Link’s life, he is given the name Cheri, after the man Cherikov – the man the black wolf killed.  As a puppy, the black wolf kills Cheri’s mother and brothers, but Cheri is able to escape.  Throughout the tale, we know that Cheri and the wolf will someday face each other – and that only one will live.

Kjelgaard weaves an excellent wilderness story – in my mind, one of his very best.  Link is one of Kjelgaard’s most personable characters.  I didn’t want to marry Link when I was a girl – I wanted to be Link.  I was so jealous of his wilderness life!

Cheri’s story is fantastic, as he grows and learns to survive in the wilderness on his own.  When he finally gives his allegiance to Link, it’s beautiful.  The story is engrossing and intriguing.  Unlike many of his books, Kjelgaard manages to avoid rambling at length about the importance of wilderness preservation, instead letting the actions of his characters speak for themselves.  Snow Dog is a story all the way through, with minimal dialogue. Kjelgaard never gives speech or human motives to his animal characters.  While intelligent, neither Cheri nor the black wolf are capable of using human logic, and neither possesses human emotions.  Both act and react as animals, which makes for an excellent wilderness story.

//published 1950// please ignore the 'look inside'// I really wanted to post the same cover as the one I have and that was the only image I could find! //

//published 1950// please ignore the ‘look inside’// I really wanted to post the same cover as the one I have and that was the only image I could find! //

Wild Trek opens shortly after the end of Snow Dog.  A ranger appears in the wilderness, riding up to Link’s cabin.  He has a broken arm, as he was thrown from his horse along the way, but he is determined to continue on his assignment.  A plane has gone down even deeper in the wilderness than Link travels, in a region known as the Caribous.  Fly-overs have been unable to locate the plane’s wreckage or signs of survivors, but every opportunity for rescue must be given to the two men aboard the plane, which means that this ranger has been sent to see if he can find them – dead or alive.

Since the ranger can’t really continue on his way with his broken arm, Link insists on going in his place.  Link takes Cheri along – wilderness-wise, Cheri is intelligent and can hunt for himself if necessary.  Link loads up a pack for himself and one for Cheri and heads into the Caribous.

Like I said, Wild Trek was my first Kjelgaard book, and I can’t even tell you how many times I read it as a kid.  I was completely enraptured by this tale of survival.  When Link finds the survivors, the pilot, Garridge, has a head injury that has left him somewhat a few screws loose, while Trigg Antray, his passenger, has injured his back in someway that makes it difficult for him to climb or walk for long distances.  When Garridge goes completely off the deep and steals the supplies and Link’s rifle, Link, Antray, and Cheri have to work together to try and survive much as “primitive” man must have done.

Antray is an entertaining character, quick-witted and intelligent, and provides a counter-balance for Link’s more steady and practical outlook on their situation.  This story is a little more human-based as the two men have to work together to survive and escape from the Caribous.  With crazy Garridge lurking about with a rifle, the story is more intense than many Kjelgaard’s adventures, and is a thoroughly readable story.  I enjoyed it just as much as an adult as I ever did in my youth.  Even when Link and Antray are fighting for their very lives, Kjelgaard manages to paint the wilderness as a beautiful and wonderful place – a place where your survival and success is based on your intelligence and adaptability.

I highly recommend both Snow Dog and Wild Trek as quick and easy reads that are full of adventure – intelligently written and engaging stories that make for excellent reading.