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This story of a young girl trying to find her way after her parents divorce is a compelling read. I learned a lot about the Appalachian Trail and how much fortitude it takes to hike it. It illustrates how much it takes for parents to understand their children and have a good relationship with them.
I have my 5th graders read this novel as part of my yearlong theme: Reach Your Peak, One Step at a Time.
The novel reinforces the value of how hard work can pay off with regards to goals. It also does a good job in teaching a young person to be more aware of what's happening around him or her.
Hot button topics that come up include death of loved ones, divorce, as well as coping in strained relationships. The good side is that Dani learns and instructs how not to deal with these issues, in addition to overcoming them.
This is billed as a YA title, but I enjoyed it (a lot!) as a narrative of Appalachian Trail hiking (maybe us AT hikers are all 12-year-olds at heart!). Ms. Bradley gives you a good idea of just what it's like to hike the Trail. And you get a feel for what it might be like if your parents met and got married during a thru-hike and named their kids Springer and Katahdin. Talk about laying burdens on your offspring! No wonder the protagonist has issues.... But even as a grumpy old bachelor, I found myself moist-eyed a few times at some of the tragedies here, as well as the final feeling of hope.
This is an easy read that would be great for advanced elementary school/middle school readers. I love that it shows the reader how much fun it can be to get outside and hike! It also shows how a mother and daughter can do things together in order to help them grow closer. It made me add "Hike the Appalachian Trail" to my bucket list :).