“Joseph can hardly believe what he has been asked to do. His Aunt Kate, a wildlife biologist, is waiting for him at a research station and needs his help taking care of an orphaned polar bear cub only a few months old. He will leave his friends and family and venture to the farthest northern town in the United States. As the adventure unfolds, Joseph and his newfound Eskimo friend Ada find mysteries wherever they look. The bear cub, Delta, remains in danger. Who would want a polar bear dead? Joseph will have to look to the North Georgia woods to save Delta. When his parents were kids, they too embarked on an excursion into the unknown. Their encounters with the wilderness beyond their backyard have shaped the future for Joseph and Delta. A Place for Delta is about one family’s journey—a passage born in the Appalachian Mountains and leading to the Arctic seas.” -Synopsis from Publisher
A Place for Delta is a very simplistic story really. One you might overlook on the shelf at the bookstore in passing… but don’t because it is destined to become a classic. It is a book that returns us to a time when children’s books were really about something and made you feel things as a child and question the world around you. So simplistic in its plot and wording it still manages to become a work of literary art. A young boy on a journey far from home to help save something so precious and yet something we so often forget to treasure- the natural world that surrounds us. A story of the appreciation for the wild no matter the location and the fight to save its creatures. Friendship, love, bravery and even some sneaky detective work make for an exciting read with an essential message woven within. A Place for Delta is a a must read for children interested in the environment, animals and the preservation efforts of both. Walker has found the perfect balance of traditional storytelling and modern elements to keep kids and adults reading until the last page. The illustrator Richard Walker has also contributed the perfect art for the writing which plays out in simplistic and beautifully rendered sketches throughout the book.
While generally my reviews tend to be more abstract, A Place for Delta connected with me as a reader on a very personal level which prompted a more personal review. For example an advantage I had when reading this work particularly was that I am a Southerner who has lived in Alaska. My parents called Fairbanks home for two years and so I know the landscape and culture that Walker portrayed and I must say she was spot on as she was with her descriptions of the southern wilderness as well. This authenticity only makes the book more real and meaningful for readers.
Personally as a young child I felt drawn to books like My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. I think I was drawn to that wilderness element, where you connected with the wild on a level where civilization got left behind. It was a kind of paradise to me. I immediately felt that same kinship when I began reading A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker. It is that simplistic view of nature as what guides us that seems to draw me into these types of books. While A Place for Delta s not a true survivalist story like the ones I have mentioned, in a way it is. It is the fight for survival not for humans but for the wild and the animals who live there. I was very impressed with this book and would recommend it to boys and girls alike. I think it will resonate for many ages as well even as a read-a loud or book club pick. The book also comes with additional notes in the back such as a glossary, sources and other fun informational links to facts about locations and animals present in the book. Parents will also be happy to find a higher level reading book that is both education and a good clean read. No worries about content or language. The books is said to be the first in a series and I for one cannot wait for the next book. A Place for Delta has also become the recipient of the 2010 international book award winner for best children’s fiction. Quite an accomplishment for a book published by a small press that is committed to bringing out books with a strong focus on the natural world and the people and wildlife living within it. Way to go Whale Tale Press!
*And if you don’t want to take my (adult) word for it check out this review at ten year old Melina’s Reading Vacation Book Blog*