Mira, 15, and older sister Jenny accompany their cousin Emily and her friend Max on a backpacking trip through a Utah canyon. They are helping Emily with research for a college paper about a pioneer woman who explored the canyon 100 years ago and discovered rock paintings executed by ancient cliff dwellers. J. Alison James's Sing for a Gentle Rain (1990) succeeds rather better at bringing the cliff dwellers to life, in a time-travel, cross-century romance. Rostkowski (The Best of Friends, 1989, etc.) presents a wealth of interesting information, but much of the dialogue is too transparently a device for conveying those details. The author's interest in the cliff dwellers is clear, much more so than the characters'. Jenny, the too-pretty-for-her-own-good sister, is a bit of a stereotype, but Mira is better developed. She seems particularly real when she's rock-climbing, or shouldering her heavy pack, describing the physical reactions in her body. Less well-supported is her instant affinity for the pioneer woman and the paintings. Despite those shortcomings, the book has a fresh and well-realized setting, and a sensitively handled romance between Max and Mira (no doubt about Mira's motivation there), and a spunky girl with strengths and interests of her own.