Monday, July 12, 2010

Middle Grade Mondays: A Place For Delta

Author: Melissa Walker
Illustrator: Richard Walker
Publisher: Whale Tale Press (June 1, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12 years
Source: Publisher for Review

Description from GoodReads:
Joseph can hardly believe what he has been asked to do. His Aunt Kate, a wildlife biologist, is waiting for him at a research station and needs his help taking care of an orphaned polar bear cub only a few months old. He will leave his friends and family and venture to the farthest northern town in the United States. As the adventure unfolds, Joseph and his newfound Eskimo friend Ada find mysteries wherever they look. The bear cub, Delta, remains in danger. Who would want a polar bear dead? Joseph will have to look to the North Georgia woods to save Delta. When his parents were kids, they too embarked on an excursion into the unknown. Their encounters with the wilderness beyond their backyard have shaped the future for Joseph and Delta. A Place for Delta is about one family's journey—a passage born in the Appalachian Mountains and leading to the Arctic.

I have mixed feelings about this book. When I read books that are directed at Middle Grade Readers (Ages 9 to 12), I really try and consider that age group while I read it. I realize that what I enjoy as an adult reader of Children's and YA literature may not be the same as the targeted audience.

Let me start with the positives:
I really loved the concept of this book. Joseph, an eleven year old boy, gets to spend the summer in Alaska assisting his Aunt Kate in caring for a Polar Bear cub. While there, Joseph gets involved in solving a few mysteries including who killed Delta's (polar bear cub) mother. The book is divided into 4 sections and the time in Alaska is contained in Section II. Joseph's relationship with his aunt and the other members of the science team is very positive. Joseph also meets the niece of one of the local crew members and together he and Ada find ways to eavesdrop on people to discover information necessary to solve several mysteries. Their friendship and enthusiasm for detective work is a great aspect of the story.

Now for my mixed feelings:
There wasn't enough of the parts that I really loved. I expected that the book would spend most of it's focus on the time in Alaska and the mysteries, but it doesn't. There is about 45 pages of background history prior to Joseph's trip that is nice information but I felt slowed the book down and unfortunately this seemed to happen again once Joseph left Alaska and returned to Georgia. There were another 40 pages that seemed to focus more on telling the reader how a new environment was created for Delta but slowed down the pace. And yet, there was a great ending to the book.

Though I am not sure that I would have just picked this one up on my own, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to read A Place For Delta. Additionally, I think children and adults with a real interest in the effects of Global Warming, and Wildlife preservation will enjoy this story. My suggestion to teachers or parents who have a reluctant reader who might be interested in the topic of this book but might not be motivated to stick with the background information would be to have the child read the Prologue and Chapter 1 and then skip to section II to get into the heart of the story. Though I don't normally recommend skipping pages, I do advocate for creative ways to keep children interested in reading a book.

Overall I enjoyed the book, but would recommend it with some reservations depending on the reader.

Happy Summer Reading,


  1. Nice blog! I am adding you to my blog roll.

    Pragmatic Mom
    Type A Parenting for the Modern World
    I blog on children's lit, parenting and education