By: Roger Reid
Reviewed by: Linda A. McQueen
Junebug Books, 2006
Longleaf is an engaging novel that applies a good deal of educational insights into Alabama’s Conecuh National Forest. Boys and girls will become knowledgeable of all facets of the longleaf pines and the preservation of forest life there.
Jason Caldwell, the protagonist of the story, is a fourteen-year-old who goes on a camping trip with his scientist parents. As the plane descends on the Conecuh National Forest, Jason witnesses a crime committed by three unsavory characters, “Carl Morris and his two idiot brothers.” Referred to as “The Three Stooges,” the Morris brothers plan to make Jason and his new friend, Leah Pickens, the daughter of Deputy Sheriff Shirley Pickens, disappear. Although Leah, age fifteen, acts like a tomboy, she knows the forest like the back of her hand and all about the politics of that area. Jason will not admit it, but he has a crush on her.
As the mystery continues, Jason finds himself lost among the longleaf pines, running for his life. The Morris brothers are determined to make this the last camping trip Jason will ever go on. Fortunately, Leah’s knowledge of the forest proves to be of great value to ensure that she and Jason make it back to safety.
Reid writes a story that will appeal to most middle school students, ages eleven to fifteen or even older. He hooks readers throughout the story and educates them about the ecosystems and offers environmental information on amphibians, birds, and trees. The prose is clear and told in the voice of the fourteen-year-old Jason. The plot is a thriller with plenty of danger to keep the reader’s interest.
Reid is the producer of the award-winning Discovering Alabama television series, a program of The University of Alabama’s Alabama Museum of Natural History in cooperation with Alabama Public Television.
Linda A. McQueen is the Library Media Specialist at McNeel School and a cooperating teacher in the Writing Our Stories program.