I haven't had much luck middle grade fiction this year with male protagonist. Either they start off well, and for some unknown reason turn on me in the middle or writing simply doesn't work for me. So this really good novel, came along at the right time. Though I enjoyed Operation Redwood so much anytime would've been the right time.
12 year old Julian Carter Li is staying with his Uncle Sibley while his mother is in China. Julian's father died when he was young so he doesn't know his uncle that well. Sibley doesn't make it easy for Julian. Sibley Carter is a very busy and very important business man, he has not time for Julian.
Now that he was fully awake, Julian remembered why he was here. It was, of course, because there had been nowhere else for him to go. The assistant principal had been unable to reach Aunt Daphne. When he'd finally gotten through to Uncle Sibley , after being placed on hold for a full five minutes, his already foul mood had grown worse.
"Of course somebody's got to get him," the assistant principal had barked into the telephone. "The kid can't just sit here all day with a fever of a 103!" He's infectious! Excuse Me? No, we don't call taxis!
While in his uncle's office, Julian opens an email intended for his uncle. Sibley's company is planning on getting down all the redwood trees in Red Pine Grove. Out of frustration and hope that her action might help save the redwoods, 11 yr old Robin to sent Sibley Carter an angry email.
Julian has a great best friend in Danny. Soon Julian and Danny are corresponding via email with Robin. I loved the emails. They were are very funny, at times I was reminded of Kluger's YA novel - My Most Excellent Year. Kluger's three characters use email as well. The authors approaches are different . Though they both have embraced their literary aesthetic and execute really well. (someone's been watching project runway). That's were the similarity comes into play.
Soon the three are determined to due their part to save Red Pine Grove. Operation Redwood is good and succeeds on so many levels. A message in a novel is difficult to pull off. French finds a wonderful balance. The redwoods are always important. The reader will learn a few things but it never feels like a lesson. Julian, Danny and Robin played off of each other very well. The diaolgue was spot on good. I loved the fact that Julian was biracial (Chinese and White) didn't come up until halfway into the story. Danny is Latino and again the author doesn't make a big deal out of this. It simply is.
There aren't many contemporary middle grade novels with kids of color as both the main character and the best friend. I highly recommand Operation Redwood. Its a funny, entertaining had to put down adventure story. ages 10up