When 13-year-old Izzie Ramirez starts her own summer yardwork business, her first job leads her to the home of a troubled rich family on the edge of a canyon where a cougar has allegedly been sighted, and to an attempt to save the cougar from those who would destroy it from fear or greed. The most successful element here is the portrait of Izzy's large, loving, extended Hispanic family¾the poker-playing aunts who squabble amicably with her mother over how to raise her; the cousins who take turns being her best friends, rivals, adversaries, and protectors. But it seems unlikely that a young girl would ask to attend her wealthy employer's neighborhood meeting on responses to the cougar and then confidently lecture all the adults there on the importance of living in harmony with nature. And the character of the boy Sam, the tenderhearted lover of all birds and bugs who nonetheless boasts of his plan to kill the cougar for the cash it will bring, is never made convincing. 2001, Holiday House, $16.95. Ages 9 to 14. Reviewer: Claudia Mills
Thirteen-year-old Izzie Ramirez decides to spend the summer making money instead of hanging out at the mall or the pool with her cousins. She starts her own lawn care business that takes her into a wealthy neighborhood in Oakland Hills. There she meets Charles and Sam and learns about a cougar spotted in Redwood Park. The neighbors are afraid and want to kill the animal. Izzie also is frightened, but she feels that the cougar has the right to be left alone. She believes that her destiny is tied up with the cat and that she needs to protect it. In coping with her business and trying to save the cougar, Izzie matures and comes to understand herself better. This well-written novel will appeal to a wide range of students who will enjoy the elements of adventure and mystery in trying to discover if the cougar really is in the park and how to save it. It shows a young girl in a positive light, starting her own successful business and standing up for her rights and those of wild animals. It portrays a close-knit, Mexican American family with members that support and accept each other. The touching ending shows hope for Izzie's future and that of the cougar family. The characters have depth and grow within the story, and Izzie's situation is one with which most young people can identify. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001, Holiday House, 130p, Dubois
School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-An entertaining adventure story with fast-paced action and a strong female protagonist. Isabel Ramirez wants her summer vacation to be more than family barbecues and afternoons sitting at the pool with her cousins, so she starts a gardening business. With her mother's reluctant approval, the 13-year-old takes on her first client and meets the woman's talented but bored 15-year-old son and his friend Sam. Soon she becomes absorbed in the stories circulating in her Oakland, CA, neighborhood about cougar sightings in the local Redwood Park. At a meeting, some people want hunting permits issued, but Isabel speaks up in the animals' defense. Sam advocates hunting the mountain lion and collecting a substantial reward. When she finds he has staked out a campsite in the park, Izzie enlists the help of her cousins to try to save the beast, and the action quickly progresses with the illegal killing of the cougar. This thematically rich story weaves together themes of strong familial ties, friendship, self-awareness, and the importance of respecting all living creatures in a consistently engaging style. Though characters lack depth, they do interact nicely and convey a strong sense of the story's message of making choices that have an effect on not just ourselves but on the way we view the world around us.-Janet Gillen, Great Neck Public Library, NY Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A restless 13-year-old searches for her destiny, and finds a cougar. Isabel (Izzie) Ramirez feels that the beginning of summer brings with it an indefinable sense of promise. To fulfill that promise, she decides to pursue an "entrepreneurial endeavor"-starting her own yard-work business. ("Money is power," her university-bound cousin Arturo tells her.) Her first client is a wealthy woman who lives up in the hills above Oakland, abutting a regional park. Izzie forms an uneasy relationship with her son Charles and his friend Sam as they lounge around the pool while she works, and when she overhears what she thinks is a plan to kill a cougar rumored to have established its territory in the park, she determines to stop them. Bledsoe (Working Parts, 1997, etc.) creates a winning protagonist in Izzie, whose keen observations, occasionally awkward outspokenness, and independence will appeal to readers, and whose extended family is a real treat. The text gently explores socioeconomic divisions between Izzie's family and her clients, and in one hilarious incident busts stereotypes when she gets her cousins to dress as gang members to menace Sam after he makes one too many racist remarks. The secondary characters are not as well developed as Izzie-in particular, Sam's obvious compassion for animals jars with his thoroughly annoying demeanor towards Izzie-but for the most part they emerge as genuine human beings. If some of the story's themes are rather incompletely explored-is money power?-it is nevertheless a perfectly satisfying read that provocatively probes the nature of destiny. (Fiction. 8-12)