Gr 5-7-Chris has relied on his best friend, Finn, to protect him from the school bully. Unfortunately, Finn won't be going to his high school and Andrew Aldie will. As if Chris doesn't have enough to worry about, his parents and Finn's father decide to fight Mr. Aldie's proposal to provide jobs by operating a gravel pit near their property. Much of the novel dwells on Chris's worries, but he comes across as a whiner and elicits little sympathy. Andrew is the stock misunderstood bully with a good heart, and a gratuitous act of violence against him at the end of the novel seems out of place. Finn is unchanged throughout the story. Dunlop effectively makes her point that in the environment versus jobs battle, there are no good guys and bad guys, just real people with good qualities and bad. Unlike the children, the adult characters are well rounded and believable. Mr. Aldie is not an evil money monger, and Chris and Finn's parents are not perfect do-gooders. Unfortunately, the apropos message is not enough to carry the story.-Cheri Estes, Dorchester Road Regional Library, Charleston, SC
For Chris Cooper, a 12-year-old with a learning disability, life at his new school becomes a nightmare, thanks to bully Andrew Aldie. Luckily, Chris' friend Finn Lochlan comes to his rescue. Then Andrew's father requests a permit for a gravel pit on what the locals call the Roman field, promising 150 new jobs to the economically stagnant area. The community is divided. The Lochlans and the Coopers fear the pit will destroy the local environment and their farms. Chris and Finn dig in the field, hoping to find some Roman artifacts that would save the land; they accept Andrew's offer of help, feeling it is safer to have him with them, especially since they're digging on his father's land. When a town meeting results in an ugly clash and Chris finds some planted Roman coins, the boys begin to see the depth of the complicated situation. What happens when people take things into their own hands is a powerful lesson. Understanding the feelings on both sides is another. This English import, an impressive study in characterization and plotting, targets complex issues that offer much food for thought.