My daughter’s 4th grade class did literature circles a month or two ago, and out of the five book choices, she picked the only one I hadn’t read.
To be fair, she wasn’t allowed to pick one that she’d read, so Chasing Vermeer was out. Still, she passed over Bridge to Terabithia, Rodzina, and Call It Courage in favor of Listening for Lions, and I hadn’t even heard of that one. (I did recognize the author’s name–I’ve even read one or two of hers–but still.) Naturally, she wanted me to read it with her, which might have happened if I hadn’t been in the middle of Echo at the time. (She also wanted to read all of the ones she didn’t pick; she’s only got Terabithia to go.) I did finally read it, though, and I have to say–the story grabs you and keeps you right from the start. Rachel’s life in Africa and subsequent manipulation by the despicable Pritchards have you solidly rooting for her the whole way through, and while the plot transitions seem suspiciously convenient for the writer at times, the story works well enough. Older elementary readers–girls especially–ought to love this one. I quite enjoyed it myself, although I get the sense that Whelan’s storytelling outpaces her level of craftmanship as a writer. I especially enjoyed the sense that she was influenced by both Heidi and The Secret Garden while telling Rachel’s story. Bottom line? If you’re looking for historical fiction with a strong female protagonist, this is a worthy choice.