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COUGAR CANYON by Lucy Jane Bledsoe


by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

Age Range: 8 - 12

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 0-8234-1599-6
Publisher: Holiday House

A restless 13-year-old searches for her destiny, and finds a cougar. Isabel (Izzie) Ramirez feels that the beginning of summer brings with it an indefinable sense of promise. To fulfill that promise, she decides to pursue an “entrepreneurial endeavor”—starting her own yard-work business. (“Money is power,” her university-bound cousin Arturo tells her.) Her first client is a wealthy woman who lives up in the hills above Oakland, abutting a regional park. Izzie forms an uneasy relationship with her son Charles and his friend Sam as they lounge around the pool while she works, and when she overhears what she thinks is a plan to kill a cougar rumored to have established its territory in the park, she determines to stop them. Bledsoe (Working Parts, 1997, etc.) creates a winning protagonist in Izzie, whose keen observations, occasionally awkward outspokenness, and independence will appeal to readers, and whose extended family is a real treat. The text gently explores socioeconomic divisions between Izzie’s family and her clients, and in one hilarious incident busts stereotypes when she gets her cousins to dress as gang members to menace Sam after he makes one too many racist remarks. The secondary characters are not as well developed as Izzie—in particular, Sam’s obvious compassion for animals jars with his thoroughly annoying demeanor towards Izzie—but for the most part they emerge as genuine human beings. If some of the story’s themes are rather incompletely explored—is money power?—it is nevertheless a perfectly satisfying read that provocatively probes the nature of destiny. (Fiction. 8-12)