CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 1. . . .September 7, 2012
Between Heaven and Earth. (Seven The Series).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2012.
245 pp., trade pbk., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.). For pricing information about digital options, including multi-user ebook subscriptions, email firstname.lastname@example.org
ISBN 978-1-5546-9941-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-5546-9942-1 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-5546-9943-8 (epub).
Seven (the series) Bundle. ISBN 978-1-4598-0270-4. $59.95.
Grades 6-10 / Ages 11-15.
Review by Rob Bittner.
Reviewed from Advance Review Copy.
I sat on the little bunk, legs up, arms around them, back against the rough wall. I looked down at my wrist for the time and was frustrated. They'd taken my watch and everything in my pockets, as well as my belt, my hiking boots and my socks. What did they think I was going to do with socks? Ball them up and throw them at the guards? How long had it been? One hour…two? And more importantly, how long would it be? They couldn't just keep me here. They'd soon discover that it wasn't drugs. But then again, it wasn't legal to transport human remains either. How long could I get sent to jail for doing that?
In this innovative new series from Orca, seven authors tell seven stories about seven grandsons, with all of the stories taking place during the same time. After the death of their grandfather, each of the boys is sent on a journey, funded and pre-planned, described to them through individual letters. Between Heaven and Earth is Eric Walters' contribution to the series and follows the oldest grandson on his adventures abroad. When 17-year-old DJ opens his letter, he finds that his grandfather has set an unusual and particularly difficult task for him, one that challenges him physically, emotionally, and psychologically, pushing him to his limits. DJ must climb Mount Kilimanjaro to spread his grandfather's ashes, at the Ceiling of Africa, between heaven and earth.
Walters' style is, as usual, quick and catchy, but smooth and engaging at the same time. His characters are well-developed, focusing mainly on three people, DJ, Sarah, and Doris, as they struggle to make their way toward the summit and deposit DJ's grandfather's ashes. From the moment he steps foot in Tanzania, DJ finds himself in trouble, detained almost immediately after getting off the plane. His luggage is stolen shortly thereafter. His saving grace is Sarah, the granddaughter of a friend of his grandfather's. Headstrong and smart as a whip, she puts DJ in his place whenever he threatens to let his pride get in the way of the task ahead.
Doris, an older woman who is accompanying DJ to Kilimanjaro's summit, is another voice of reason for DJ. She often sets the pace for the group as they ascend the mountain, keeping DJ from racing ahead to his own destruction. Elijah, Sarah's father, keeps telling DJ to go slow and easy, but DJ just wants to get to the top and get things done. By keeping him in check, Elijah, Sarah, and Doris help DJ see the beauty, the joy, and the redemption that their journey can provide.
Some of the plot is slightly unbelievable, at least to me. DJ is only 17, and his mother is allowing him to go half-way around the world to climb a mountain without any prior knowledge of the people with whom he is supposed to be climbing. Sarah's father allows her to climb the mountain though she is only 14, and all because DJ requests her as a porter. While there may be situations in which these events might occur, the likelihood may be cause for speculation on behalf of the reader. Of course, with suspension of disbelief, the story works beautifully, especially within the context of the series. Walters' has written a fantastic story that will capture the attention of young readers and keep them engaged until the last page. If this first story is anything to go by, I will definitely be looking for the others in the series.
Rob Bittner is a graduate of the MA in Children's Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He is currently a doctoral student in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at Simon Fraser University.
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