Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Friends and Activists: Operation Redwood

When you read multiple books at the same time, it's always fun when certain themes repeat, especially if the books themselves cover very different areas.  I read S. Terrell French's Operation Redwood while also finishing Stupid Fast, and both books featured moms failing their sons completely during summer vacation.  Stupid Fast is aimed at adolescents, and the mom disappears in a dark way involving family secrets and psychological dysfunction, while in French's book Julian's mom just gets an irresistible career offer that mandates dumping him on his barely known paternal uncle for the summer.  Unfortunately, it turns out the reason they barely know this uncle is because he and his wife have been trying to conceal their active dislike for our hero, which makes for a very uncomfortable time for the boy.

All this is from the child's perspective -- it's a series of injustices and petty meannesses that just get filed under general adult craziness for Julian and his friends, and the story is about the friend Julian makes and the plot they concoct to send him to her farm for a visit instead of to the horrible math camp his aunt inflicts on him.  The kids have a visceral love for the old growth redwood grove that the uncle's company has slated for logging, and their various plans and failures as they try to save it make for an interesting story.  The family dynamic glides along in the background, making me as an adult want to reach in and crack some heads together but not really interfering with a kid perspective on the story.

It's a really fun book that I'm going to put aside for my seventh grader; I think he'll enjoy Julian's decency and initiative.  I'm glad my Reading My Library quest brought me this book, and I'll look out for anything else French has written.

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