Cliff Hanger

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When Axel's dog, Grits, is left stranded after following two climbers up a mountain trail, danger is imminent as a lightning storm threatens. Kaboom! Can Axel, with the help of his dad, make the difficult climb up Cathedral Wall to rescue Grits before it's too late?

Wendell Minor's spectacular paintings capture the great outdoors of the Teton Mountains, while acclaimed children's book author Jean Craighead George tells the compelling story of ...

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Overview

When Axel's dog, Grits, is left stranded after following two climbers up a mountain trail, danger is imminent as a lightning storm threatens. Kaboom! Can Axel, with the help of his dad, make the difficult climb up Cathedral Wall to rescue Grits before it's too late?

Wendell Minor's spectacular paintings capture the great outdoors of the Teton Mountains, while acclaimed children's book author Jean Craighead George tells the compelling story of one boy's mountain-climbing adventure.

Despite the dangers of a thunderstorm, Axel and his father make a difficult climb to rescue Axel's stranded dog.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
George offers an up-close, nail-bitingly dramatic look at the sport of rock-climbing in this picture book adventure, but her unlikely plot scuttles the outing. Young Axel's dog, Grits, is stranded on a mountain ledge as a thunderstorm approaches. Under the supervision of his father, the leader of the climbing school, Axel braves the elements to rescue his pet. George has the lingo down pat, and infuses the tale with tension but therein lies the problem. Dag, Axel's father, calls a halt to the climb, but Axel goes ahead anyway (Dag had no choice, George ventures rather limply. His son was climbing). Axel reaches the dog just in time (Crackling electricity lifted the hair straight up on Axel's head and arms.... Sparks snapped from his ears to the rocks), but he faces even graver danger on his descent (No nut, carabiner, or rope was there to save him if he made a mistake). It's hard to imagine any adult allowing a child to risk his life in this manner, no matter how beloved the pet, and, in a picture book, this behavior seems implausible at best. Minor serves up a series of realistic action shots that capture the athleticism of the sport but are not always believable most notably, the picture showing the crackling electricity presents the boy and dog as relaxed and smiling even as the sparks fly. Ages 4-7. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Set in the Teton Mountains, this adventure story of a young boy rock climbing to save his stranded dog will be sure to entice those outdoorsy readers. A lightening storm is on its way when Axel realizes that his dog, Grits, is stranded up on a mountain ledge. His father, Dag, who runs the mountain climbing school, helps Axel begin the ascent to his dog. Racing with the storm, Axel does not let the storm break his careful concentration. Rock climbing can be a dangerous sport if not done correctly. Bit by bit, Axel approaches the ledge where his nervous dog waits. Once there, he carefully ropes himself to the wall of the outcropping and he and Grits wait out the storm. Grits is lowered to the ground, and once there safely, Axel starts his descent. Dag coaches him and tells him the best way to get down. Careful climbing is important as much on a descent as an ascent and Axel carefully reaches the bottom. Over a makeshift fire, Dag and Axel share some soup as they wait with Grits until the storm has left the valley. They all realize how scary what they just did was, but a part of them wouldn't have it any other way. Wendell Minor's paintings of the Tetons are glorious and his attention to detail makes Axel's adventure very real indeed. 2002, HarperCollins,
— Joan Kindig
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-With help from his father, who runs a mountain-climbing school, and under pressure to beat a rapidly approaching lightning storm, Axel climbs a sheer cliff to rescue his stranded dog. George expertly weaves in many details about mountain climbing, safety, and the nature of storms without compromising the suspense of the story line. Unfamiliar words (carabiner, rappel) are made clear in context and illustrations, without wordy definitions. The realistic art advances the tension and effectively reveals Axel's prowess as a climber. After the dog is lowered from its perch by a rope and harness, the boy must make his way back down. He runs short of rope and must descend the final segment of the rock face in a free climb. Both father and son are relieved when he reaches the ground safely. This is an especially good read for adventure-loving, active, outdoor kids, or for anyone who just loves a good story.-Dorian Chong, San Jose State University, CA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A disappointing effort from this well-respected pair. Headstrong young Axel defies his father and faces down an impending storm and a challenging climb up what appears to be a sheer rock face to rescue his stranded little dog. So far, so good. Unfortunately, the tension of the text is not well reflected in the illustrations, in which characters resemble plastic action figures, with smooth, molded, pink legs, hands forever frozen in a semi-cupped position, and feet eternally encased in painted-on shoes. Perhaps the lightning-lit images are meant to evoke the stop-frame staccato of a violent storm, but the bone-dry condition of the climb, the fine, fluffy fur of the dog, and their sun-soaked descent on Cathedral Wall would seem to contradict this. Unlikely, too, is the inaction of Axel's father, Dag, the leader of the Teton Mountains Climbing School and presumably an expert on the pleasures and perils of climbing. Why would an experienced, responsible climber and loving father allow his son to ignore his safe, alternative plan to reach the dog? No explanatory matter is offered to describe or depict the climbing equipment and terminology that figure large in following the storyline, and the illustrations do not make them obvious. With this team and this title, the reader anticipates fine, high adventure and painterly interpretations of environment. Despite its lightweight treatment of what could have been a compelling story, dog-lovers, weather-watchers, and budding adventurers may appreciate this additional purchase. (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060002602
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Series: Outdoor Adventures Series
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Craighead George wrote over one hundred books for children and young adults. Her novel Julie of the Wolves won the Newbery Medal in 1973, and she received a 1960 Newbery Honor for My Side of the Mountain. She continued to write acclaimed picture books that celebrate the natural world. Her other books with Wendell Minor include The Wolves Are Back; Luck; Everglades; Arctic Son; Morning, Noon, and Night; and Galapagos George.

Wendell Minor has illustrated numerous award-winning picture books, including Sierra by Diane Siebert, Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin, and America the Beautiful, based on the poem by Katharine Lee Bates. Mr. Minor's art has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Norman Rockwell Museum, among other prestigious institutions. He lives in rural Connecticut with his wife and their two cats, Cindercat and Sofie.

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