once in while a title drops in my lap that I know I have to jump on. Mystery in Rocky Mountain National Park is exactly that kind of book for me. It hits a lot of the things I love- it's Middle Grade and a mystery, making it perfect to add to my library shelves for next year, it's a series so there will be more titles for everyone to dig into, and lastly, it's set in the National Parks, and for those of you that know me, you know that next to books my absolute favorite thing is to visit the National Parks.
I was stoked to get a copy of this book and even more excited to discover how good it really is. This story follows Jake who is on a summer road trip with his family and some family friends- before they leave, Jake is gifted a scrapbook, and a scavenger hunt complete with several mysteries to solve. It was his grandfathers, and now it's his to work his way through. I don't want to give too much away because the unraveling of the different threads is really what makes this book so much fun. I also really loved that the story jumped back and forth from the late 1880's when the area was being explored and settled (and fought over) and present day. It really gave some extra context not just to the story, but also to the area that eventually would become Rocky Mountain National Park.
You don't have to love the National Parks to get into this story, but I can promise that if you have a outdoorsy adventure kid (or if you were/are an outdoorsy adventure kid), this book will defintiely land for you. What I founf the most exciting was that Johnson includes several illustrations and maps in the book- if you've been to Rocky Mountain National Park you might find yourself thinking "I've been there!" or "I know right where that is!" as you read. If you haven't been, but want to go, this book will give your kids some spots to find as you travel through the park. Several trails and landmarks are featured prominently in the book, and make for a great jumping off point. It would super fun for a family to take the hike to Alberta Falls and Bear Lake just like Jake, Wes and Amber do in the book. I know that while I read I kept thinking of the pictures I'd taken that almost exactly matched the illustrations in the book!
The other thing that Johnson does that I really appreciate is include both history of RMNP and the people referenced in the book and outdoor safety tips in the Author's notes. There were a few points in the book that I worried that it would be giving kids an unrealistic expectation of roaming the National Parks relatively unsupervised. In the story Jake, Wes and Amber are allowed to take hikes, ride their bikes, and generally explore on their own. Their parents take tons of precautions, but even still, heading out into the wilderness, even on maintained trails, can be dangerous. As the story progressed though, the parents shared more and more safety tips and in the Author's Note, even more safety information was shared. I really appreciated that this book was fun and full of adventure, but didn't ignore the very real dangers that you can come across out in the wild.
It also made me think of the card game Ten Essentials, which is one of my families favorites to play while we are road tripping. You can check it out here: Ten Essentials
To wrap this up, I'll just say that if you and your family like mystery books, adventure and especially if you love to travel, this is a great book to pick up. I can't wait to get my hands on the next book, and I especailly can't wait to read Books 9 & 10 which will take place in my personal favorite parks Yellowstone and the Tetons.
Check out some other pictures that I took on my last few trips through Rocky Mountain National Park that reflect some of the places that Jake, Wes and Amber visit in the book!
that the best stories don't give us the what we want, they give us what we need. Out of the Blue is 100% that story- in the end I found myself looking back and thinking, "that's not how I expected it to go" quickly followed by "but it was so much better then I ever could have imagined"
I don't want to give a single thing away here. I'll just say that June expertly deploys every RomCom trope that we know and love, and then takes the story and flips it around. Sean and Crest take this journey together to find out who they are and what they want and how to fight for the ending they need. There were several points where I had to stop and prepare myself to turn the page because I didn't know where the story would take me next.
I really can not wait for everyone to read Out of the Blue and get to go on this journey with Sean and Ross too.
student in his very small town. The story itself is actually very simple, it's just a kid coming to grips with who is and what that means in the context of a place that you love, that might not love you back. The simplicity is what makes it so powerful- because there are a million small towns like this across the US, I grew up in one, and in every town there is a Jake, who just wants to be proud of himself and his town.
Jakes family is super supportive of Jake, worried about what might happen next, but always in his corner. When Jake's dad hangs a pride flag in their front yard it forces the whole town to confront their feelings about not just Jake personally, but what they want their community to stand for. When Jake steps out of his comfort zone and rally's support for the first Gay Pride event in their town's history, those feelings of course come to a head.
I'm not going to give specifics, you have to read to find out, but what Stamper does with this storyline is brilliant- because it is so relatable. What person hasn't felt like it's you against the world about something? What person hasn't thought someone is in their corner only to find that maybe you didn't know that person as well as you thought you did? Or who has found out that the someone new is maybe just the friend you didn't even know you needed? And we all want to believe that when push comes to shove, the people that love us will have our back, even when it's tough. Jake navigates it all, and as a reader, it's amazing to take that ride with him.
I can't for everyone to get their hands on this one, and to add it to my library collection next year.
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