Friday, 11 February 2011

Raven’s Mountain

Raven’s Mountain by Wendy Orr (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781742374659
Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

This children’s novel is from the perspective of Raven, a ten-year old girl who has just moved from her familiar home to the high mountain country of British Columbia. This is an adventure tale packed with physical and emotional challenges in the sometimes harsh but beautiful wilderness. It should appeal to girls especially, who are in the upper primary school levels.

The story begins with Raven, her older teenage sister Lily and their new step-father Scott going for a hike. The trip is obviously intended as a bonding experience but doesn't start well. Lily continually text messages her old friends back home. Raven daydreams about their estranged father coming back from Australia. Everything changes dramatically however when a sudden rock fall throws Raven off the top of the mountain and buries Scott and Lily alive.

Raven now must use every ounce of strength and determination to get down the mountain to get help for Lily and Scott. This includes finding food and water, not getting lost and keeping safe from the family of bears she keeps running into along the way. Through necessity Raven develops an understanding and oneness with the environment that poses such a danger for her.

The text is broken up into short paragraphs which switch from Raven’s memories to the next challenge she faces on her journey, to imaginary conversations with her friends or family. Although sometimes a bit jumpy, this technique helps to cover ground as Raven works through some of the issues she started the story with. The first person point of view brings the reader closer to Raven and the present tense gives a feeling of immediacy as she carries out an incredible feats for someone so young.

As in Nim's Island, Wendy Orr presents her readers with an inspirational character and a thorough description of the natural environment.

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