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Monday, June 18, 2018

Tracker's Canyon, by Pam Withers. Dundurn Press, 2017. $12,99 ages 12 and up

"An hour into Math, students point out the window.

“Class!” snaps Mr. Winters, to no effect.

A fire truck wails up the main street of our little town (population two thousand), its flashing red lights bouncing off the school’s football field posts, where it stops. I leap up to join the students crowding the window; even Mr. Winters stands there gawking. One look and I’m out of the classroom ... "

The first part of this thrilling adventure introduces readers to 16-year-old Tristan and his complicated life. He is a skilled tracker, thanks to his father's coaching. In fact, he is one of the best and shows his many skills as often as he possibly can. He reads tracks, is fearless when climbing and descending rock walls, and owes it all to his father and his love of canyoneering. 

When his father dies, as you would expect, Tristan's life changes dramatically. His mother cannot cope with her grief. She takes to her bed, and can barely make sense of life. Tristan's uncle and a less-than-qualified housekeeper do little to help Tristan deal with the hardships inherent in struggling to find balance and understanding for all that has transpired. As things get worse, he makes up his mind to search for his father, whose body has never been found. 

Tristan wants proof, and is determined to head to Swallow Canyon in search of clues to his father's disappearance and presumed death. Into the picture comes a new guide, Brigit Dowling. With her, he goes into the canyon for the first time since losing his father. They are accompanied by Dominik Goralski. Tristan begins to notice clues that lead him to conclude that he is the one being tracked. It takes all of his skills to keep him safe. 

It turns our that the story's characters are connected, and their beliefs about what happened are quite different. This fills the story with the suspense that middle grade readers appreciate. I had no idea that I would become interested in the sport that consumes Tristan, and learn so much about it. But, that happened and I had difficulty putting the book down. It is a story about what is true, how families work, friendship and courage in the face of danger. Worth the read! 

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