SPIRIT IN THE RAINFOREST
Volume 14 Number 3
This is another book in the Tom and Liz Austen Mystery series. Eric Wilson writes a fast-paced story about Tom Austen, who stays with friends in British Columbia during his summer holidays. The oldest daughter, Nikki, who is twenty-five, invites Tom to participate in a peaceful occupation, (organized by the Greenpeace Foundation) to save an island rainforest. This is the reason for the introductory sentence in Spirit in the Rainforest. "They buried Tom Austen just before midnight." This is part of the protest, and compels the reader to continue.The story evolves around the owners of the island, who want to log and sell the timber, and the Greenpeace Foundation, which plans to save and protect it as part of Canadian heritage. Vernya Anastasia Tosca, who at one point ran an exclusive girls' school on the island, is married to Major Warwick Tosca, who is money-hungry and manipulative. He especially wants the money from the logging, regardless of the damage that will result. Tom Austen, and his sister, Liz, who arrives later from their home in Manitoba, are involved in witnessing an apparent murder, and then assist in unraveling the mystery behind it and the many strange occurrences in the rainforest on Nearby Island. The story is well-paced, with excellent descriptive and informative passages. Wilson uses his Canadian research to insert factual geographic and science-related information about this village and ocean life. However, the information occurs in conversation and usually fits in well. His descriptive passages are so persuasive because he actually experienced travelling aboard "The Lady Rose," as well as walking along the sandy beach and exploring the rainforest. I think the story would appeal to grades 4 to 7 students, especially if they have followed the series. Addresses are also given in the book for the Greenpeace Foundation and other organizations. Students may also write to join a free "Eric Wilson Mystery Club," which currently boasts eight thousand members. The hardcover edition is well-bound with good-sized print and spacing. The illustrations are adequate. I did feel some confusion about Tom Austen's age. In the story I think of him as being in his late teens, though the illustrations portray him as twelve or thirteen. However, this can be overlooked, especially by students who enjoy a fast-paced mystery novel.
Carol Steedman, North Ward School, Paris, ON.
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