NOTE: The giveaway contest is closed–congratulations to Nellie, who recommended Ivanhoe as her favorite adventure story. “High interest” children’s literature (see our explanation here), covers many genres and age levels. Today we look at some worthy titles in the travel/adventure genre for middle graders–and you, lucky reader, may have a chance to win three of them! See below for details. And there’s only two days left to win Why Easter?, the devotional book Megan reviewed yesterday; check it out here.
The title says it all: young Wilder goes hunting for his first elk with trusted neighbor and old timer Gale Loving. An early-morning rise, a drive into the Colorado mountains, a hike deep into the woods, a missed shot, a track, and finally a wounded elk at bay. But then they have to get it home, and that’s where the trouble starts. This series is for kids—boys especially—who love the outdoors, or would love to love the outdoors if they only got a chance. It strikes an admirable balance between nature worship and nature as the declaration of God; animals as praiseworthy spirits or praiseworthy creations (elk are impressive, that’s for sure). The story begins with a quote from Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea: “Man is not made for defeat . . .” With its spare style and steady forward motion, Elk Hunt might have been titled The Old Man and the Boy and the Elk. Even though Gale is identified as an elder at Wilder’s church, there’s not a lot of God-talk. There’s also not too many complications in the plot and a few possible verbal glitches (is glass a verb?), but budding frontiersmen will love going along for the ride.
Volume 2 in the series, Texas Grit, is available next month. Readers who enjoy the great outdoors might want to follow Wilder’s nature journal after they read about his adventures.
- Worldview/moral value: 4
- Literary value: 3
Unlike Wilder Good, Gannon & Wyatt are real people, 15-year-old homeschooled twins who travel the world with their flight-attendant mother and artist father. They’ve actually been to the settings of these three books, and experienced some of the adventures therein, but plots and villains were added. The stories are told alternately, in journal form. Though similar in appearance, the twins are not identical, least of all in personality. Wyatt is the analytical, scientific one: his journal entries always begin with the exact time and location, and often temperature and map coordinates as well. Gannon’s entries are likely to be placed “somewhere in the savanna” at “late afternoon”; he’s the people person and cut-up (his trick on Wyatt at the beginning of Egypt is priceless). But of course, they’re inseparable. Each adventure takes place in an exotic location after the boys and/or their parents receive a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in planned expedition or go on a photo shoot. The plots seem rather perfunctory, with an obvious villain (game poacher, oil developer, tomb robber), but the real appeal lies in detailed accounts of what it’s actually like to get drenched in the rain forest or scrounge for water in the Kalahari desert—or find oneself the target of an irate rhinoceros mama. Plots improve as the series progresses. An intrepid native girl figures in each of their adventures (reminding me of C. S. Lewis’ “irrelevant young woman in shorts” who appeared too often in an old movie version of King Solomon’s Mines), who is probably supposed to broaden the appeal. But with or without the added female influence, many girl readers will enjoy these books as much as the boys. Occasional references to evolution or environmentalism don’t get in the way of the story.
Fans can read more about the twins at their website, as well as see videos, additional photos, and further adventures (next up: Iceland). The Youth Exploration Society (YES) is a W&G project designed to further the love of adventure and stewardship of our beautiful planet. Can’t argue with that. Or those cool hats.
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Literary value: 3.5
Roland Smith is one of our favorite sources for adventure stories: see reviews and comments on our “Stalking the Elusive Boy Reader” post. To win a set of the first three Travels with Gannon & Wyatt books, give us the title of your all–time favorite adventure book (fiction or non) in the comments section. A winner will be chosen one week from today, Tuesday, April 1 (no fooling!).