Let’s check out a unique upper middle grade book, The Rifts of Rime, by Steven L. Peck.
The Story- In the beginning The Wealadend created five animals that were quickened (intelligent and capable of speech). They were the wolf sisters, the ants, the marmots, the gray squirrels and the regular squirrels. These animals were to be shepherds over all others and never kill another quickened being.
Our story begins centuries later. Among the gray squirrels is a poet named Pinecone, who dreams of writing masterful poetry and of flying through the sky. One day he is called into the university to visit a master poet, Fernfron, who shares grave news. The old poet believes someone is destroying all the copies of The Wealadend’s scrolls and asks Pinecone to leave at once with the last copy and hide it.
Pinecone does what is asked and while he is gone, the grey squirrels attack the other quickened, bringing them into slavery and killing most of the elders. Pinecone now sets out on a quest to save his people, discover his own inherited gifts and keep the faith of The Wealadend alive.
My Thoughts- First off, a great animal tale. Sometimes authors just can’t pull of anamorphic creatures, but Peck does a great job. This book is filled with deep characters full of history, belief and spunk. Pinecone’s tale is the main line, but several subplots exist involving other of the 5 quickened species. They all tie in wonderfully to create a bold story of honor and betrayal.
I do have to point out that the title of the book made no sense to me. In the long run this doesn’t matter, but I did read the book with that question in mind, and it never got answered. Also, there is a lot of squirrel poetry. I understand its place in the story, but I thought it was a little much.
The book is full of intense emotion and war time violence (middle grade level). The author does a gifted job drawing the reader into the plight of these poor creatures, who you often forget are animals. The book is gender neutral- meaning I think both boys and girls will love it. And I just have to say I’m still wondering- “Who stole the scroll?” You’ll have to read it to see what I mean.
Goodreads is holding a contest to win a free copy- http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/25612-the-rifts-of-rime