Documentary producer Roger Reid makes his debut as a novelist with Longleaf, a young adult adventure thriller with a strong message about environmental preservation.
Jason Caldwell and his parents have planned a camping trip in Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest so that his mother can study frogs. On the plane coming in, however, Jason spots some mysterious activity out the window. Convinced he’s witnessed a crime in the offing, he reports his suspicions to the police upon landing, and the family trip is delayed by the investigation. Jason teams up with Leah, a savvy forest-lover who knows all the ins and outs of local politics, and soon the two are wandering among the longleaf pines in search of the truth.
Reid writes beautifully about nature, and this book will certainly lead many of its readers to learn more about ecosystems and the environment. The first time Jason sees the longleaf pines up close he says,
- That emerald green carpet I had seen from the sky was still in the sky. I mean, those trees had no limbs and no pine needles near the bottom or even the middle of the tree. All of the limbs, all of the needles, all of the green didn't even start until about three fourths of the way up. And every single tree was tall and straight… Each tree seemed to have its own personal space a respectful distance from every other tree. Maybe it was this space between them that made each one different from the rest.
Reid’s crafted a well-plotted thriller that will keep his audience engaged while they are being educated, starting by hooking the readers at the beginning with Jason speculating that he's about to die. The book is a wild ride that might have the added benefit of opening kids' eyes to the natural beauty the world holds for them.