Amy Graves’ and Pam Schweitzer’s ALICE AND JACK HIKE THE GRAND CANYON bursts with vivid images (the wonderful illustrations are by McKenzie Robinson), which both merge the concreteness of the text with the imagined, and offer an ample feast for roving eyes. Narrated by young Alice, the story of her parent’s and brother’s adventure quickly takes on the air of warmth, encouragement, support, and compassion, allowing her personality to occupy a space of its own on the page. Undaunted by the children’s zeal, the parents appear as stoic figures that guide and reassure, never doubt, creating a refuge for dreams and yearnings.
And so, aided by the novelty of the unknown that’s forever feeding Alice’s imagination, the tale quickly establishes its own goal, allowing the reader to partake in her sense of anticipation. What’s more, the final trek through the Grand Canyon, particularly the uphill journey, appears daunting enough to warrant the build-up that sees Alice and Jack embark on shorter, preparatory walks. The closer they’re drawn to the main event, the more unexpected the book becomes, incorporating a wonderfully diverse cast of characters and an equally thrilling emphasis on the coexistence of humans and animals in the wilderness. In the process, the kids’ fleeting observations are molded into plot points that add humor and levity to the unfurling adventure. From a squirrel pilfering lunch from a discarded backpack to Alice’s noted appreciation of “the brave, sure-footed mules” facing the challenge of a steep edge head-on, every component is seamlessly woven into the narrative.
What’s even more astonishing, and of sure value to both child and adult, is the homage paid to the sacred lands that were once home to “Native peoples”, allowing for the fusion of Alice’s wonder with a deeper sense of the oneness of life. The educational value of the book seems endless, as it comes with a carefully drafted code of conduct for potential hikers and a list of facts concerning the Grand Canyon National Park itself. In many ways, ALICE AND JACK HIKE THE GRAND CANYON serves as both preparation and incentive for readers to pursue their own adventures, even if they’re steered away from Alice and Jack’s desired destination in the end.
In ALICE AND JACK HIKE THE GRAND CANYON, Amy Graves and Pam Schweitzer craft an earnest family adventure, in which the children’s intrepid endeavors are stoked by loving parents. With respect paid to both the wildlife and the predecessors of the lands they traverse, the tale offers lessons that stay with the reader long after the book’s completion.
~Neil Czeszejko for IndieReader