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)