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- Publié sur Amazon.com
Having finished reading almost all of Jean Craighead George's 90-some books, I have lots to compare this book to. For reading enjoyment and strength of story, George's book are of uneven quality. However, when it comes to teaching about science, the outdoors, plant and animal life, and ecology, her books can't be beat.
Tree Castle Island is a story that works pretty well in many ways, while not as well in a couple others. In the story, Jack is a 14-year-old boy who is visiting his Uncle Hamp while his parents are in Europe. Hamp lives on the St. Mary's River, one of the two rivers fed by Georgia's massive Okefenokee Swamp, just north of the Florida border (Rand McNally Atlas's Georgia map helped me put the layout of the story in perspective, as the places mentioned in the story are real). While Hamp is away for a couple weeks, leaving Jack by himself, Jack decides to paddle his homemade canoe upriver to explore the Okefenokee, following his "sun daughter" in hopes of finding the long-lost Paradise Island. When an alligator bites a hole into the canvas sealing his canoe, he becomes stranded on an island far out in the Okefenokee. Rather than being upset about this, he's somewhat pleased to be out in the wilderness on his own, and he sees it as a challenge.
At this point, the book becomes almost like a retelling of George's My Side of the Mountain in many ways - Jack needs to use simple tools and nature to live off the land, which he does very successfully with his knowledge of nature. As a story, rather than seeming like a boring rehash of her earlier book, this works well because Jack's in a very different environment than Sam Gribley in My Side of the Mountain (meaning the problems, techniques, and wildlife are different), and because in Tree Castle Island, this process seems a bit more realistic than in parts of My Side of the Mountain - more like what a real 14-year-old could / would actually accomplish.
After Jack gets somewhat settled in on the island, the story begins to exhibit amazing coincidences, straining its credibility greatly - if the reader can overlook these, the story is still quite enjoyable, but I can understand how some readers might be put off by them. As Jack becomes desperate for food, he finds a bear that has just died (still warm), and shortly afterward encounters a dog that looks almost exactly like his and answers to the name of Dizzy, which is also the name of his dog. He finds that the dog belongs to a boy named Jake who is camping on the island, an adopted boy who looks, thinks, and acts just like him. As obvious as it quickly becomes to the reader, it takes the boys quite awhile to figure out that they are identical twins, separated at birth. Jack becomes angry that his parents never told him he was adopted, and uses this as a further reason to drop out of society for awhile and remain on the island with Jake. Working together, the boys quickly construct a multi-part treehouse that would make Robinson Crusoe jealous (their "Tree Castle," mentioned in the title). Later in the story, while he is a hundred miles from his Uncle Hamp's, Jack coincidentally meets Jake's girlfriend, who mistakes him for Jake. All these coincidences can be quite hard to swallow at times. What IS more realistic is when Jack and Jake begin comparing their habits, hobbies, and likes - those readers who have heard about separated twin studies know that genetics can make separated twins turn out to be very similar in many ways, and this story illustrates that well.
Along the way, we learn much about the Okefenokee - George's description is rich and often left me with a clear picture of the swamp. We also learn about the plant and animal life of the area, ways to survive off the land, how to navigate your way out of the swamp if you're lost (find a current and follow it downstream), the history of the swamp and islands (once criss-crossed by railroads seeking lumber and inhabited by settlers), the power of genetics (nature vs. nurture), how to cure chronic diarrhea (which Jack uses to save a sick bear cub from dying - the same simple cure used in African nations where diarrhea has been a leading killer of babies), and many other lessons. If you try to imagine a wilderness survival guide (such as Jean's older twin brothers, Frank and John Craighead, wrote for the military during WWII), written as a children's novel, Tree Castle Island would meet this description fairly well. George did a great job fitting SO much story and information into so few pages. Anything lacking in the "story" aspect of this book is more than made up for by its other elements.
If you know of a young reader who has an interest in science and nature, steering them into Jean C. George's books is certain to further their interest immensely - it would not be a stretch to say it might well even influence their educational / career path. Start asking around, as I have, and you'll be amazed at how many people read and loved My Side of the Mountain and / or other JCG books while growing up. With one or more books published almost every year since 1948, it's hard to overstate what a tremendous impact George has had on children's literature and generations of readers.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I had been waiting a long time for the release of the newest novel by Jean Craighead George for several reasons. One, I have been an avid reader of her books for a long time, two, it had been 3 years since she had published a novel, and three, the new book took place in my homeland of Georgia; to be more exact, the setting is the spectacular Okefenokee Swamp just north of the Georgia-Florida border. I was not disappointed. TREE CASTLE ISLAND is very special. It is an intriguing book that has similarities to some classic adventure stories, while other aspects of it are fresher and broader. In it, we meet a 14-year-old boy, Jack, who loves the outdoors, even though he lives in the big, busy city of Atlanta. It is a treat for Jack to be able to visit his Uncle Hamp while his parents are in Europe. Hamp, too, likes nature and allows Jack to be indepedent. Soon Jack has fashioned a handsome homemade canoe he calls "L'tle Possum", and he sets out to do some exploring in the great habitat surrounding Uncle Hamp's home. In a short time Jack (and the reader, too) has become enchanted with the vast Okefenokee. When an accident damages "L'tle Possum", Jack must learn to fend for himself on an island. Like Sam Gribley from the beloved MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN trilogy, Jack is a strong, industrious teenager. While most kids might give up hope in such a predicament, Jack quickly takes control, turning the island into a liveable home. While on the island, he makes some new animal friends--including a dog named Dizzy who looks strangely familiar--and discovers some bizarre mysteries. There are clues that there is other life hanging around the island besides Jack; it's evident in the strange cries that echo throughout the swamp, the debris scattered around camp, and the odd behavior of Dizzy. Then, one day, Jack meets a kid just like him; looks just like him, acts just like him, and thinks just like him, even has a name (Jake) like his! Slowly the boys come to realize that they must be long-lost twins. Frustrated with his parents for never telling him he was adopted, or that he had an identical brother, Jack decides to remain on the island with Jake. The boys turn their camp into a paradise that any nature lover would envy, complete with a house in the trees, wild animals for companions, and catfish and plants for food. The sights, sounds, and life of the swamp are wonderfully weaved into the plot, and even with such a unique situation, the realistic side of the story is never lost. The book is moderately paced, rising to a gripping climax toward the end. It makes a great read for people who are passionate about the swamplands or who, like me, would enjoy learning more about it. I have lived in Georgia ten years and with TREE CASTLE ISLAND I still learned a great deal about the nearby Okefenokee and the people, wildlife, and legends of this state. That's one of the great things about the books of Jean Craighead George--you learn something, or many new things, in each story. If you enjoyed this book I would recommend MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN, a 1959 Newbery Honor book that helps to prove that even after so long, Ms. George's adventure books have not lost their touch, and its sequels, ON THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN and FRIGHTFUL'S MOUNTAIN. Each book gives a descriptive account of living as a beneficiary and a part of nature, sort of, Thoreau for kids. THE TALKING EARTH is a beautiful book about a girl who, like Jack, paddles out into another place of trees, grass and water, the Everglades. Also check out a stunning picture book called EVERGLADES, illustrated by Wendell Minor, the prolific artist who did the captivating cover of TREE CASTLE ISLAND (the team also have a great new picture book out, entitled CLIFF HANGER). Read any one of Ms. George's stunning books--whether a survival story like TREE CASTLE ISLAND, a picture book like EVERGLADES, or an epic like the JULIE OF THE WOLVES trilogy--and you are sure to be dazzled by your new knowledge and understanding of a natural treasure.