When should a child be told he is adopted?

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Tree Castle Island
by Jean Craighead George
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 2002 | HarperCollins | 256 pages

Fourteen-year-old Jack Hawkins loves the Okefenokee Swamp. He visits Uncle Hamp as often as he can in the summer in order to spend time paddling through the waters, discovering the wildlife and hidden islands of the region. This summer is particularly special since he has brought the canoe he made himself and is determined to prove to his father that the little ship is "sea worthy".

Legend says that the Okefenokee is bewitched with Sun Daughters who lead visitors astray with special calls and visions. Jack begins to wonder if he himself has fallen prey to the swamp's wiles each time he finds evidence that someone or something is out there with him. His fears are allayed, however, when he meets Jake. Jake is no ghost, but a real live boy, just like Jack. So much like him, as a matter of fact, that the two teens are convinced they must be twins, separated at birth.

In the same vein as Julie of the Wolves and My Side of the Mountain, Jean Craighead George has written yet another masterful story of wilderness survival. She brings the swamps of Georgia alive as Jack and Jake camp together, using every available resource to supply their needs and overcome challenges. The one problem they cannot resolve in the swamp is that of their parentage. Questions about adoption, trust and filial loyalty all come into play as the two boys experience the joy of having a sibling--and not wanting to lose that special friendship.

Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher currently living in Ridgewood, NJ.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | adoption, family

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Reading Matters is MercatorNet’s blog about children’s literature. Our goal is to enable parents and educators to find quality books for young people. For an explanation of our evaluation system, click here. We welcome reader input and new reviewers. We love comments on the book reviews. Write to us at jennifer.minicus@mercatornet.com.

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