Riding the Flume



Book: Riding the Flume

Author: Patricia Curtis Pfitsch

Cover Illustrator: Cliff Nielsen

Publisher: Aladdin, Reprinted 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0689838231 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 0689838239 Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0689866920 Paperback

ISBN-10: 0689866925 Paperback

Related website(s): http://www.SimonSaysKids.com (publisher)

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 10-14

Rating: **** 4 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Pfitsch, Patricia Curtis.  Riding the Flume (Published in 2002 by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division of Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY).  It is the summer of 1894 , and fifteen-year-old Francie Cavanaugh lives with her parents, James and Mary, in Connorsville, CA, where they run the hotel.  Six years earlier, her older sister Carrie had been killed in a landslide.  The surrounding land, known as Connor’s Basin, west of King’s Canyon National Park, is in sequoia country; it is owned by Thomas Connor’s Sierra Lumber Company and used for logging redwoods.  A thirty mile flume has been built to carry the logs down to St. Joseph.  Francie’s cousin Charlie Spencer works for the company.  Francie finds an old note which says, “Don’t tell anyone — the only safety is in secrecy,” written by Carrie and hidden in the stump of a sequoia.

The note leads Francie to search for Carrie’s diary, and when she reads it, she learns some information about the largest and oldest tree that is soon scheduled to come down and needs to get to St. Joseph fast.  Faced with the choice of either giving up or riding the flume, should Francie risk her life for the secret her sister fought to keep?  If she takes the flume, can she make it on time?  Or does she even survive.  And what will her parents think?   The “d” and “h” words are used one time each, and the term “My God” is said once as an interjection.  Otherwise, as Booklist says, “Pfitsch brings together a brave heroine, authentic background, and an intriguing view of a little-known part of U.S. history to make this a winner.”

Riding the Flume is a great fast-paced, exciting, well-written adventure story that has mystery, villains, and the uncovering of secrets, along with some great twists and turns in the plot. In addition, Pfitsch’s research and attention to detail bring the pioneer life of the 1890’s alive for the reader.  The book has a strong, high-spirited female character and good details about the redwoods.  It would appeal primarily to girls, but I enjoyed it.  Also, some moral-value issues, such as telling the truth and minding parents, are nicely handled.  Reasonable conservation measures are promoted, but there is no wild-eyed, tree-hugging environmental extremism.  A glossary and notes are provided.

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