Julian Carter-Li’s mother is following her photography dreams in China but that means she left him behind in San Francisco for the summer. Unfortunately, she left him with his aunt and uncle, who seem to hate him. He does love his younger cousin, Preston, but he really wishes that his mom would come home sooner rather than later. His aunt and uncle are far from kind (and reminded me a little of the Dursleys!). When the school calls to say Julian is sick, no one will pick him up! His aunt sends a cab to take him to his uncle’s office, where he is left to lay on the couch til later that night. However, while his Uncle Sibley is at a meeting, Julian intercepts an email from a girl his age, Robin, who is furious that Sibley will be clear cutting a redwood forest near her home. Julian spontaneously responds to her and he and his friend, Danny, begin exchanging emails with her. The boys and Robin come up with a scheme that helps Julian escape the dreaded math camp he is being sent to and lands him an exchange with the Robin’s family. On their farm, he discovers the true meaning of family of the beauty of the redwood forest.
Before he realizes it, Julian is working against his uncle’s company to save the grove of old-growth redwood trees from the clear cutting Sibley has planned.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s a good companion for Carl Hiassen’s eco-novels and I imagine it will really appeal to my middle schoolers. Julian and his friends are in middle school themselves and their reactions and plans for the protest are very realistic. I could imagine myself making the same decisions they did as a preteen. Plus, who has not wanted to run away and live in a treehouse at some point in their life?
*Review copy courtesy of the publisher for the Cybils. All opinions are my own and not those of the panel as a whole.