Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bonnie's review of Place Last Seen

1. Title, author, and date of book?
Place Last Seen by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman, 2000

2. Genre: fiction

3. What made you want to read it? Did it live up to your expectations?
Wendy at Caribousmom put it on her Something About Me Reading Challenge list, and I chose it as one I wanted to read. It is every bit as good as I expected.

4. Summarize the book without giving away the ending.
During an idyllic autumn-day hike in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas, the Baker family is hurled into a nightmare when six-year-old Maggie, a child with Down Syndrome, runs away while playing hide-and-seek with her brother. As the Search and Rescue team combs the place where Maggie was last seen, all the family can do is wait and hope that a clue will lead them to her.

5. Share a quote from the book.
Here are the opening lines:
Maggie is lost.
Ann crouches in the trail, listening to this sentence loop over and over through her brain. Her daughter is six years old -- blond, brown eyes, Down syndrome, lost.

6. Did you think the characters and their problems were believable?
All except that mother, who seemed strange to the search and rescue team as well. We know the little lost girl through flashbacks; we see that her father, mother, and 8-year-old brother all feel guilty that she is got away from them; but the story is really (in my opinion) about the searchers. I was fascinated to learn about THEIR problems as they tried to find nearby dog teams to follow the scent before it was lost -- only to discover they were in Peru, helping there. The longer it took to get the trained dogs to the PLS, the place last seen, the more likely the scent would be washed away by rain or otherwise contaminated by helpful volunteer searchers. And then there was the new guy, learning to track, who stepped on the first good clue to be found. Oh, yes, their problems were very believable.

7. Was location important to the story?
Location was everything. The story is located in the Desolation Wilderness area of the Sierra Nevadas in the state of California. I know I'll have to read the book again, now that I have found a map of that area, but I was too engrossed to look for online information as I was reading the book. The need to know what's next kept me turning the pages. But look at this wonderful map I found since finishing the book! (Click on the map to make it larger.)

8. What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
What I got from Ed and Michelle, two of the search team members, about the whole point of tracking:

Ed believes, "Tracking's mostly learning to see" (p. 63).
Michelle says, "Tracking's all about learning to see" (p. 66).
Ed "knows that the only way to find something is, in some sense, to stop looking with your brain and start seeing" (p. 127).

I get it, I get it! But do I really? Jonathan, who is on his first search, has a hard time learning to really see the lay of the land (literally) and the little clues that seasoned trackers notice. What I may think I learned by reading this book wouldn't take me far in the wilderness, but what a challenge ... to really pay attention to everything that is in your line of sight. Is there a broken twig? Is the grass flattened? What's really right there in front of your nose?

9. How would you rate the book?
Rated: 9/10, excellent! Thanks, Wendy!

10. What I learned about Wendy:
Oh, yeah, one more thing: I can't forget to report what I learned about Wendy from reading this book. She said: "This book is a touching novel about a lost child and the search which ensues to find her. It represents me on a couple of levels. I have been involved in Search and Rescue for almost ten years now (the first 7 of those years was with my Search and Rescue dog - Caribou- and now I'm a certified Tracker I for my county team). In addition, the child in this novel has Down's Syndrome. As a licensed Physical Therapist, I work with children and adults with developmental disability. McGuinn Freeman does an outstanding job of portraying both the search teams and the family of this little girl."

I posted this on Wendy's blog: "I have finished reading Place Last Seen and feel I know you a lot better now. What I want to know is, which dog in the team photo is Caribou?

Wendy replied: "Caribou and I are not on the Shasta County dog team...we worked for an state-wide organization called CARDA. I retired Caribou two years ago due to her developing arthritis ... and now I serve as a tracker for my county team (which is the link I provided in my 'explanation' of the book). You can see a photo of Caribou here on my blog."

Caribou is a beautiful dog! Go see for yourself. This is exactly what I was hoping to learn about some of you when I joined this challenge. Wendy has been out there searching for people like the characters in this book, on search and rescue teams and with her trained dog. This has been great, learning something new to me and at the same time learning about my new friend Wendy.

I reviewed this on my blog, Bonnie's Books as well.


JMC said...

Nice review. I chose this book to read as well, and I'm really looking forward to it. Sounds interesting.

Gracie said...

Excellent review, Bonnie. Not a book I'd have chosen, but you'd made it sound like something I'd like & I'm going to search it out. (Special thanks for adding the map)