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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Imagine going on a run along your favorite trail in the local national park and, all of a sudden, a kangaroo jumps out at you and starts talking to you. And, not about just anything, but about going to war, doing battle, saving the natural habitat for the native animals of the park. That’s what happened to Andy. And now everyone thinks he’s nuts and his parents even insist he goes to see the school counselor. But Alisha, the new girl, believes Andy, and she offers to help. In the process, the two thirteen-year-olds find a bond that goes beyond friendship – first love.
Chris Johnson’s middle-grade novel, The Fire Trail, is a Gene Stratton-Porter kind of novel about the natural world and how we fit into it. Told in the first-person narrative from Andy’s point of view, the plot follows the children's connection with the natural world and, in particular, Andy’s ability to communicate with the wildlife. It’s interesting that the author cleverly chose character names from the historic Crimean battle known as the Charge of the Light Brigade. This adds another layer of intrigue to a story already well-plotted. The characters, both animal and human, are well developed and believable; the dialogue typical for this age group (including the animals’ dialogues) and the scenes are well described. An interesting story that will have young readers thinking more seriously about the natural world around them and how they can stand up for and defend all animals and their natural habitat. Brilliant.