5 Stars Out Of 5
a feel good about life story
July 8, 2014
Wayne S. Walker
Twelve year old Jessica James is moving. Her dad, who is a theology professor at a college in Kalispell, MT, is taking a sabbatical to write a book. So they, her mother, her sixteen year old brother Patrick, her ten month old wolf-dog Kayak, Patrick's Australian shepherd Lady, her pet parakeet Cheep, and her Siamese cat Parka, pack up everything and head one hundred miles to their new home, a rustic Rocky Mountain cabin without many of the normal modern conveniences, such as electricity and running water, on Steller's Creek near Torch Heights, the closest town at twenty miles away. In so doing, Jessica must leave behind her best friend Maria. Will there be any other kids to play with near their new home?
One neighbor, Penny Ruffin, almost two years younger, has a tree house, loves birds, and has a pet crow named St. Peter. She is fun. However, two other nearby girls, Dixie and Deanna Morris, seem harder to get along with. At sixteen, Dixie is friendly enough but is more interested in Patrick, and Deanna, who is Jessica's age, can be somewhat irritating and comes up with a surprise when she says that she doesn't believe in God while challenging Jessica about her own faith. This bothers Jessica, who begins to think about why she believes in God and to ask her family questions about the subject. Can Jessica sort through all these things in her mind? Summer at Steller's Creek should be of special interest to homeschoolers because both the author, Anne Clay Cernyar who grew up in the Montana Rockies, and the protagonist, Jessica, have been homeschooled. The illustrators are Anne's parents.
In addition to exciting adventures in the woods, such as being chased by a bear, catching a pack rat, and searching for a lost pet crow, the book has the general "feel good about life" aura of such classics as Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright, Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield, or Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen. But it also has the added benefit of considering evidences for the existence of God in a manner easily understood by youngsters without being heavy or sounding "preachy." Someone recommended Summer at Steller's Creek to me, and I cannot now remember who it was, but I'm glad that he or she did because I very much enjoyed reading it. There is an Afterword which presents classical arguments for Gods and has discussion questions. It will be especially appealing to young girls between seventh and eleventh grades. And there is a sequel, In the Shadow of the Mountains.