When a trip to the Grand Canyon region promises a welcome respite from the stress of living in an economically unstable town, Jenna Henley is thrilled at the prospect of bringing her best friend along for the journey. When a sudden change of plans foists the worldly local gossip queen Sarah Rotham into the position of her traveling companion, Jenna struggles to maintain a Christ-like love and concern for this challenging girl. Combined with her worries over her father’s job security, will Jenna be able to pull it together and display the love of Christ to Sarah while struggling with her own issues?
My first introduction to author Jennifer Slattery’s work came by way of her first novel, a work of historical, biblical, ice-age fiction Journey to the Ice. While our family certainly enjoyed reading her first offering at bedtimes together, her second novel for young readers — A Grand Canyon Adventure — has proven itself even more compelling, with a strong focus on loving the unlovable. Indeed, It's an exciting, suspenseful adventure with even some young earth science thrown into the mix.
Slattery’s characters are realistic, with both Jenna and her parents struggling at times to maintain their composure when faced with the sandpaper of Sarah’s personality. Mr. Henley is a bit of a card without being overdone. My six-year-old was kept on edge throughout Sarah and Jenna’s mishap; she couldn’t stand the delicious anticipation of learning the girls’ outcome. I'm confident that older children and those in their early-teens would also enjoy this title as a read-alone.
Jenna is the only child of a homeschoooling family, which will make her easier to relate to for homeschoolers, but this aspect of the storyline is fairly subtle. Her family could be any Bible-believing Christian family with a philosophy of seizing real life educational opportunities. So, if your family doesn’t homeschool, don’t worry – that isn’t the story’s main thrust, the plot is instead anchored in the family’s faith and their desire to shed it abroad.
What I most appreciated in Grand Canyon Adventure were the sweet times of discussion my daughter and I shared together. Whether we were discussing geologic formations or the Deluge spurred on by the novel, or talking about polite behaviour by exploring the contrasts between Jenna and Sarah, I loved these naturally occurring opportunities to disciple my child. Better yet, so did my daughter.
Admittedly there is a significant loose end left hanging by book’s end, we never learned the conclusion of the job-hunting trip in terms of the employment situation. There are also a few more typos than you’d generally expect, but neither of these dissuades me from heartily recommending this title to others. That’s just what I’ve been doing and I intend to continue doing so. Grand Canyon Adventure is a wholesome, encouraging, and yes – educational novel that captures the imagination with its’ high interest topic.