GRIZ­ZLY PEAK

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Middle Grade Books -

Jonathan Lon­don’s Griz­zly Peak is the third novel in the grip­ping “Aaron’s Wilder­ness” ad­ven­ture se­ries. Aaron’s changed: he quit sports, got into rap mu­sic, and let his grades slip. Then a teacher found a Swiss Army knife in his back­pack and pro­nounced au­to­matic ex­pul­sion, just weeks be­fore eighth grade grad­u­a­tion. The school makes a deal: in­stead of be­ing ex­pelled, Aaron can do a two-week Bri­tish Columbia wilder­ness trek with his fa­ther, pro­vided he writes up the story of the trip. There’s typ­i­cal teenage fric­tion be­tween Aaron and his dad, so he’s re­luc­tant: “Some­how I’d have to sur­vive two weeks alone with my dad, and be­come a writer!” he grum­bles.

Kayak­ing from lake to lake in West­ern Canada, they set up camp and portage the boat in be­tween. It’s a gru­el­ing rou­tine even with­out ac­count­ing for the mos­qui­toes, moose, rain­storms, and a per­sis­tent griz­zly bear out­side their tent. One day they face greater dan­ger than usual, and their roles re­verse: Aaron is now in charge, and it takes all his strength and courage to plan a safe re­turn.

The book is pre­sented as bud­ding au­thor Aaron’s jour­nal-turned-story, and he’s a pro at chap­ter-end­ing cliffhang­ers and con­vinc­ing di­a­logue. Black-and-white il­lus­tra­tions by the au­thor’s son, Sean Lon­don, are a great ad­di­tion, es­pe­cially the ea­gle’s-eye view of the kayak.

Best of all, it’s touch­ing to see Aaron and his dad re­pair their re­la­tion­ship. Re­bel­lion and dis­agree­ment made Aaron feel he’d lost his dad’s ap­proval, but their wild ex­pe­di­tion re­minds him of two things: “Some­times it’s a bat­tle. But he cares about me. I know that” and “I can be my worst en­emy or I can be my own best friend. It’s up to me.” This is a sur­vival tale in the vein of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, but also a story of fam­ily bonds en­dur­ing.

Jonathan Lon­don, West­winds Press, Soft­cover $12.99 (172pp) 978-1-94332-877-2

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