Chapter Books - Cliff-Hanger
Cliff-Hanger, Gloria Skurzynski and Alane Ferguson. National Geographic Society. April 1999. Grades 4–6
When Jack first hears his family is getting an emergency placement foster child, he is not happy about it and feels it will “screw up” their plans to visit Mesa Verde where his Mom is going to do some animal consulting. Jack’s younger sister Ashley is very excited at first about having a foster child in the family until she meets Lucky. From the moment Lucky arrives Jack is swept away by her charm and secret tales. Lucky manages to divide Ashley and Jack’s bond quickly and convinces Jack of her desperate situation that she has kept secret. Although Jack sees some unusual actions from Lucky along their trip, he does not share the same opinion as Ashley that Lucky is hiding something and is planning to runaway.
Once they reach Mesa Verde, Jack’s Mom and Dad are heavily involved in solving the park’s problem of cougar attacks and the political upheaval it has brought about. Lucky begins to struggle with her conscience, but is determined to escape and meet up with the person she is secretly calling late at night. After some harrowing events Jack, Ashley, and Lucky come across Lucky’s father and the truth begins to reveal itself. Lucky and her father elude the park rangers and Jack’s attempt to persuade Lucky not to runaway. With the park’s cougar problem solved, the Landon’s head back home minus a foster child.
The mother-daughter writing team does an excellent job of depicting Mesa Verde and all of its treasures in this third National Parks Mystery series book. Even though this novel is classified as a mystery, the story revolves more around living with others, family ties, surviving, and a child’s attachment to her parent. The reader is kept involved by what Lucky is up to and how a twelve-year old boy can be naïve and so committed to helping another.
This wouldn't be one of my top recommendations for those interested in mysteries, but the other books in this series may actually fit the genre better than this one did.