OK, so you might be saying, "This doesn't look like the typical Waltzing Matilda fare." And you would be right! I picked this book up from the library for
1. The Professor has dabbled a little in science fiction and kind of enjoyed it so I was on the look-out for something similar and found this.
2. Um... I'm very much a fan of the Brazilian Rainforest?
3. OKAY... the real reason is because Rob Thomas was my high school journalism teacher.
I was not a journalism student, but I had friends who were dedicated members of the Rampage! (Cool name for a newspaper, right? Maybe I should have mentioned that our mascot was a ram.) But I remember Mr. Thomas, um... Rob... um... him... from my high school days better than some of my own teachers but that's because he was this cool, young teacher who seemed to enjoy hanging out with his students and talking about his band (in a decidedly less creepy way than that sounds, of course!)
I was first made aware of his writing talents when a friend turned me on to the Veronica Mars series. Have to confess, I was eerily suspicious about this former high school teacher writing a story about an outcast-high-school-Nancy-Drew genius wondering if I was going to see any of my old high school show up in the fictional world he created. I think I did, in a subtle way, but that doesn't have anything to do with this story which, funny enough, is about an outcast junior-high-school-Albert-Einstein genius.
Here is a quick synopsis from School Library Journal:
Grady Jacobs, a 13-year-old botanical genius, is invited to participate in a rain forest study supported by international business interests. He has won several science fairs, and his research into the cloning of plants has interested Dr. Phillip Carter, head of the reforestation Embryo Project. When Grady arrives in Brazil, he is relegated to grunt work. In between gathering food, cooking, and cleaning, he investigates Dr. Carters New Forest, a grove of super-growth trees used to reforest a clear-cut area. The secrets he discovers send him fleeing into the wilds, with Dr. Carter hunting him at every turn.
I can't say that I'm going to let my kids read it just yet even though it targets their age group because there is some pretty graphic bullying going on in the beginning that frankly, would be really confusing to my homeschooled children. They understand the concept of bullies, but school yard smack downs are foreign to them along with typical middle school insults and things called "wedgies". I know... they are very sheltered. What can I say?
But I enjoyed it and I think I discovered why Mr. Thomas is no longer a high school journalism teacher. He has a definite talent for story telling. The characters were amusing and likeable, I was definitely drawn in by the action even though the ending was a bit predictable, I don't think he intended to shock and awe the reader with suspicion inducing misdirection. After all, it was written for middle school children, not adults who never get to see the library beyond the walls of the children's department.
FYI: Based on other reviews I have read of Mr. Thomas' books, it appears that he is very permissive when is comes to the morality of his characters, more so than what most of my mommy friends would probably be comfortable with (and myself). I picked this one up, instead of another one of his tales, mostly because it was located in the children's section, not YA fiction.