Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: A Place for Delta by Melissa Walker

A Place for Delta

Author: Melissa Walker
Illustrator: Richard Walker
Publication: Whale Tale Press (June 1, 2010)

Description: 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.

Author Information: Melissa Walker, Ph.D., has been a professor of English at the University of New Orleans and Mercer University and a Fellow in Women's Studies at Emory University. She's has been an advocate for civil rights and a national leader for wilderness preservation. Her current commitment is to empower children to understand their place in the natural world and to discover how they can help save the environment. A Place for Delta is the first of a planned series of novels (chapter books) that will follow the adventures of the characters as they learn to take their place in a complex world. Walker's previous books include Writing Research Papers, 4 editions (W. W. Norton, 1982–1997); Down from the Mountaintop (Yale University Press, 1991); Reading the Environment (W. W. Norton, 1994); and Living on Wilderness Time: Two Hundred Days Alone in America's Wild Places (University of Virginia Press).

My Thoughts: I found this to be a thoughtful but slow moving book. It seemed to be trying to tell a number of stories from preserving and exploring the wilderness in Georgia to saving polar bears in the Arctic. I'm not sure what the main focus of the book was supposed to be.

Quite a bit of the book talks about 11-year-old Joseph Morse who goes from Georgia to stay with his Aunt Kate at a research station to care for an orphaned polar bear. The books begins with the story of how Joseph's father and aunt came to live in Georgia in an old house that had been in one family since the Civil War days until the last member of that family dies.

It also spends time talking about how the Eskimos live in the Arctic region in the characters of Chipic, Avik, and Ava. Ava and Joseph become friends and help solve two mysteries -- smuggling dinosaur bones out of the Arctic and the shooting of the bear cub's mother. There is also a plot thread about the secrecy of researchers and the evils of the oil companies who want to drill for oil in the Arctic.

Then the focus shifts back to Georgia where Joseph's family makes a polar bear habitat for the orphaned bear cub and has to find a way to support it. This leads to a treasure hunt for the gold buried by the original owner of the house where Joseph's family lives.

Besides the fact that the book has so much plot, my main problem with it was that each incident happened so rapidly that there wasn't much emotional engagement with any of the activities. The characters were all pretty much one-dimensional.

This book could appeal to middle graders who were interested in the environment, the Arctic, or orphaned polar bears. While it had mystery and treasure hunt subplots, I don't think they were dominant enough to hold the attention of mystery or adventure lovers.


  1. Thank you for the honest review. Sounds like something I might skip.

  2. I've got this one to read as well. Glad to know it's possible limitations before going into it. I wonder if it's one science teachers could use?


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