As Arlo looked around, the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves.
She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: “If I can see you, they can see you. You’re in danger. Be careful, Arlo Finch.”
Arlo Finch is a newcomer to Pine Mountain, Colorado, a tiny town of mystery and magic, but he’s already attracted the attention of dark and ancient forces. At first he thinks these increasingly strange and frightening occurrences are just part of being in Rangers, the mountain scouting troop where he learns how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods. But soon Arlo finds himself at the center of a dangerous adventure, where he faces obstacles that test the foundations of the Ranger’s Vow: Loyalty, Bravery, Kindness, and Truth.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language
Booklist (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 5-8. Twelve-year-old Arlo Finch is new to small-town Pine Mountain, Colorado. Observant and inquisitive, he soon realizes that there is more to the town than meets the eye. Dark and magical forces surround the town, and it doesn’t take Arlo long to encounter these magical forces as they inexplicably try to harm him. With the help of new friends from an outdoor scouting group, the Rangers, Arlo learns how to use his new Rangers skills to fight off these magical forces. With nods to the Harry Potter series, accomplished screenwriter August artfully thrusts readers into a whole new world, right alongside Arlo. The many magical forces and creatures in this book are intriguing, especially because August firmly establishes them within the magical parameters of Arlo’s world. Arlo, meanwhile, is a lovable, inquisitive character, and as he wittingly subdues the magical creatures, the plot only becomes more dynamic. This is just the first volume in a new series, so readers won’t have to wait long to plunge back into the mysterious Long Woods.
Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A 12-year-old white boy finds out he’s special in a new middle-grade fantasy series.Arlo Finch has just arrived in the tiny town of Pine Mountain, atop the high peaks of Colorado. Times are tight, and Arlo, his sister, and their mother have moved into the crumbling family home with his taxidermist uncle. Arlo, who has one green eye and one brown, isn’t in Pine Mountain long before he makes friends with (the requisite girl and boy sidekicks) supersmart Indian-American doctors’ daughter Indra Srinivasaraghavan-Jones and Chinese-American STEM genius Henry Wu. When Arlo joins the Rangers, a mixed-gender scouting troop, he’s made privy to thunderclaps (literal hand-clapping that sounds like thunder) and snaplights (a snap of the fingers that creates illumination) along with traditional scouting tasks such as tying knots and pitching tents. As Arlo works toward earning his first rank—Squirrel—questions mount. What is the Wonder? What and where are the Long Woods, the Realm, and the Valley of Fire? How is Arlo connected to a long-lost girl only he can see? Who wants to kill him, and why? Arlo is a smart, likable boy, but his story adds little new to the genre. The mountain setting and eerie house filled with stuffed and mounted animals provide an evocative sense of place for Arlo’s adventure, but characters and plot feel too familiar, particularly a Goblet of Fire–like Ranger challenge. Atmospheric at best, formulaic at worst. (Fantasy. 8-12)
About the Author
John August is a screenwriter whose credits include Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Frankenweenie. He is also the creator of the Writer Emergency Pack, an educational storytelling school distributed to more than two thousand classrooms worldwide.
Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, John now lives in Los Angeles with his family. Her website is johnaugust.com.
Around the Web
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire on Amazon
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire on Goodreads
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire Publisher Page