________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 30 . . . . April 5, 2013


Thunder Creek Ranch. (Orca Echoes).

Sonya Spreen Bates. Illustrated by Kasia Charko.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2013.
61 pp., pbk., pdf, epub, $6.95 (pbk.).
ISBN 978-1-45980-112-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-45980-113-4 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-45980-446-3 (epub).

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Meredith Cleversey.

*** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



Jake raced to the top of the hill and looked down. Below him, Tommy had reached Thunder Creek. There wasn't much water running. Only a small stream trickled through the wide creek bed. Tommy leapt off a rock, jumped across the stream and continued on into the woods. Most of the herd stopped at the stream for a drink, but the calf leapt neatly across, its mother following.

Jake groaned. How would he ever catch them? Tommy would get lost in the woods. He had never been past Thunder Creek before. Jake had to find him.

Jake and his brother Tommy are back in their fourth adventure by Sonya Spreen Bates. While Jake and Tommy are visiting their grandparents at Thunder Creek Ranch, they discover that another boy is staying on a neighboring farm. Jake is excited by this at first, but he soon realizes the boy, Cory McNash, is a bratty kid who brags, lies, and makes fun of Tommy for being a baby. When Cory accidentally leaves a fence gate open, a loose calf chases Tommy past Thunder Creek and up into the nearby forest. With a thunderstorm looming overhead, Jake knows that he and Cory will have to put aside their differences and work together to find Tommy and get back to the farm safely.

internal art      This new adventure of Jake and Tommy can be read both by those familiar with the brothers and those just now being introduced to them. This story, part of the "Orca Echoes" series, is lively and quick-paced, a good read for those who like nature stories and tales of survival. Thunder Creek Ranch has continuous action, but everything that happens to the three boys is realistic. Getting lost, surviving a thunderstorm, and crossing a flooded creek bed are all tasks Jake and his companions must face. Their situation is sometimes perilous, but they do what they can to keep safe and take care of each other along the way.

      Thunder Creek Ranch is a well-written story divided into short chapters, each one brimming with excitement. Full-page illustrations done by Kasia Charko enhance the tale by highlighting both the action in the story as well as the rich and detailed landscape of the hilly farmland, raging creek, and dense forest.

      Jake, Tommy, and Cory have realistic relationships in this book, making the story relatable for readers. Jake doesn't always like having his little brother around, but he worries when Tommy is lost, and he defends his brother to the sour Cory. Cory is not always nice to Jake and Tommy, and Jake doesn't like the boy's personality. Even though they do not really get along, however, all three boys manage to put aside their differences in order to escape the woods and make it safely home to the farm. When the story ends, Jake knows that Cory is still a pain to be around, but he also understands that there is more to a person than what one might notice at first. Thunder Creek Ranch does a good job of highlighting the complexities of friendships like these, and the story allows readers the chance to see that sometimes it's okay for people to not get along.

      Thunder Creek Ranch is a fun, easy-to-read addition to Sonya Spreen Bates' series about the brothers Jake and Tommy. With constant action, interesting settings, and character relationships that are true to real life, this is a good choice for those looking for a realistic adventure story.


Meredith Cleversey is a librarian in Cambridge, ON. She loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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