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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Call Me the Canyon: A Love Story* by Ann Howard Creel- young adult book review

Call Me the Canyon: A Love Story
by Ann Howard Creel
Grades 10-12 205 pages Brown Barn Books September 2006 Paperback    

Call Me the Canyon is a memorable story depicting the harsh conditions and natural beauty of Glen Canyon, Utah during the 1800s. Glen Canyon has been called a lost Eden because the conditions are perfect for life.

About Call Me the Canyon, Creel said,
“most of the events that took place in the book are factual. Many of the people, not the main characters, are historical and the canyon no longer exists as it was. It is now covered by waters of Lake Powell created by the Glen Canyon Dam. There is a huge movement to drain the lake and restore the canyon as it was, but I meant to make no political statement by writing this book. I just love the area and its history.”
Having seen the canyon transformed by Lake Powell below, I found it hauntingly beautiful. Through this book, I hoped to learn more about the canyon during the Old West in an era when men inhabited it and history was being made. I was not disappointed. Events in the story can be traced to credible sources.

Considered historical fiction for young adults, this story is also a romance. Fifteen-year-old Madolen, who is half Navajo, has lived in the canyon for most of her childhood, motherless and without female companionship. Often away prospecting or deadened by grief, her widowed father’s companionship is erratic. Lonely and curious about the world beyond the canyon walls, Madolen chooses to live with a Mormon family, the Olsens, from whom she learns to read and write. An unexpected family tragedy, and her father’s bitter disinheritance over her leaving, forces Madolen to venture out on her own. Unwilling to visit her Navajo relatives for aide and with gold prospecting too unpredictable, Madolen works as a guide for the surveyor of a mining company, Wallis Honemon, a Harvard scholar and archaeologist. Over their weeks of travel, Madolen believes she has fallen in love.

Through Madolen, Creel reveals the disastrous efforts to transform gold prospecting into big business, the journey the Mormons endured to settle in Utah, the plight of the Navajo culture during the westward expansion, and the social implications of falling in love with the “wrong” person.

Both of the adolescent characters, Madolen and Echo Song from Creel’s previous book Under the Stand Still Moon, are admirable. They rely on their wisdom and instincts to survive alone in harsh living conditions. Through mentors the girls meet after leaving home, they ultimately help the families they left behind who are suffering from hunger and the inability to easily provide for themselves.

Creel has a unique talent for creating unusual, yet realistic, metaphors: “snowflakes as delicate as pale moths filling the sky” and “hip bones poking up from its hide like scrap iron grown over by short grass.” Her eloquent and descriptive vocabulary describes so much in a few words. Occasionally the narrative seems a stretch for the character Madolen, which overall is forgivable.

A Texas native, Creel became intrigued with the West on a family vacation. The natural beauty of Colorado, where she lives, often inspires her writing. The young adult-targeted Under the Stand Still Moon , published in 2005, has won several awards. Her other books are: The Magic of Ordinary Days , Water at the Blue Earth , Nowhere, Now Here , and A Ceiling of Stars .

Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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