THE CANYON by Sheila Cole


Age Range: 10 - 12
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The San Diego community is horrified when their local television station announces that San Ramon Canyon, the place where they hike and enjoy local flora and fauna, is slated to be leveled for 95 luxury homes. Eleven-year-old Zach is the first to react, and with his family’s, neighborhood’s, and schoolmates’ support, he fights back with petitions and pleas presented to the disinterested local government. Zach uses his skill in photography to enhance a newspaper and television campaign, but succumbs to his best friend’s intimidation to use vandalism to slow the corporation’s efforts to get started on their lucrative project. Zach’s photography reveals that an endangered species lives on canyon property, which helps the “Save the Canyon” effort, but his acts of vandalism prey upon his mind until he comes up with an idea to give his precious baseball-card collection in partial payment for his mistake, sparking an advertising campaign on the Internet to persuade the corporation to trade its interest in the Canyon for massive numbers of nationally contributed baseball cards. Zach’s effort is heartwarming, but Cole’s text is weak due to frequent awkward phrasing, passive voice, and annoying clichés, and is so repetitious as to drag the plot to a standstill. Cole’s purposeful repetition allows everyone to reveal themselves, but this approach to introducing and building character fails, because her ultimate result is shallow. Though tedious, the plot feels real, until the conclusion abruptly ends with a deus ex machina: the grandfatherly owner of the Canyon property, hitherto unmentioned, pops up in the last chapter, forgives the vandalism, saves the canyon, and commits a large sum to making the canyon a dream come true for the whole community. On par with a bad made-for-television movie. (Fiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: May 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-688-17496-5
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2002