CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 35. . . May 19, 2017
Up The Creek! tells the story of brothers Chad and Matt and their friends Dean and Andrew and their constant search for their next great outdoor adventure. Taking advantage of the exceptionally high spring runoff, the boys set off in canoes down Milligan Creek which passes through the center of their small Saskatchewan town. With waters not nearly as easy to navigate as originally believed, pitfalls and problems become abundant, including lost paddles, raging rapids, and lots of wet clothing. As night falls, the boys must figure out a way to work together and find safe haven from an incoming storm in an effort to get home to their parents.
The cover art and back of the book synopsis advertises the novel as a fast-paced thrill-seeking adventure. Sadly, the plot moves sluggishly and, at times, seems somewhat over-extended in length. Repeat canoe catastrophes lose their appeal quickly as Matt’s constant disregard of both nature’s warning signs and Dean’s voice of reason is at the core of most mishaps. Although the story does pick up speed near the end, most of the boys’ adventures unwind in an unusually meandering pace for a book of only 135 pages.
One of the positive aspects of the novel is the depiction of male friendship. It is clear that these boys care for each other and share a genuine love of the great outdoors. The lone character standout is Dean who is often the voice of reason and hesitation during the plot’s mishaps. Consequently, readers are offered a more thorough sense of who this character is and are thus able to empathize with his reservations. Dean may be the typical worrisome friend, but he is also the only one we, as readers, grow to care about.
In conclusion, Up the Creek! is a mediocre middle school novel that promises more action than it offers. Likely to attract young male readers already interested outdoor adventure and calamities with friends, this book may also be a favourite with hesitant readers due to its high interest content.
Recommended with Reservations.
Amy Westbury is a teacher-librarian at Bruce Trail Public School in Milton, ON.
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