Operation Redwood

I read Operation Redwood (2010) by S. Terrell French as a result of one of my other book-related labors of love–being steward of a Little Free Library. I bought it with a bunch of other middle-grade and children’s books in a $7 per bag library sale, and when I was sorting, I had to put it to the side so I could read it before it goes in the Little Free Library. I’m so glad that I did–it was a delightful eco-adventure novel with biracial 6th-grader, Julian Carter-Li, at its center.

Julian lives in the San Francisco area, and is currently staying with his aunt and uncle–his deceased father’s brother and sister-in-law–because his mother has gone to China on a photography job. While he doesn’t mind his younger cousin Preston, his uncle and aunt do things like send a taxi to pick him up from school when he’s sick, and plan to send him to math camp for the summer. Luckily he has his best friend Danny, but he can’t bear to think of being sent away to math camp.

He found out about math camp when he read his uncle’s email while waiting in his office after the taxi pick-up, and also read an email that calls his uncle a jerk, seems to be written by a kid, and is upset about possible logging of a redwood forest. Julian forwards the message to Danny, deletes the evidence, and then takes up an email correspondence with the kid, Robin, who is nearly the same age, lives on a farm in northern California, and is homeschooled.

Julian, Danny, and Robin plot to get Julian out of math camp by pretending to go, but instead Julian goes to Robin’s family’s farm as an exchange student while Danny cancels math by calling them on the phone pretending to be his aunt. Julian loves it with Robin’s family on the farm, and especially loves Big Tree Grove, the forest that is planned to be logged. Although they do get caught, Julian and Danny are able to go back, and while they are there, they create and execute a plan to camp out in a treehouse in Big Tree Grove so that the logging won’t happen.

It’s very cute, well-plotted, and I loved how all of the plot threads were tied up in a bow at the end. It was free from anti-fat bias, and in fact, there were not really any descriptions of characters’ body sizes, so it was weight-neutral enough that kids of all sizes could imagine themselves one of the characters. I highly recommend it for readers of all ages.

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