Thousands of miles from the high school halls of Slave Day and Rats Saw God, Thomas delivers an action-adventure novel largely set in the rain forest of Brazil. Thirteen-year-old science whiz Grady Jacobs finds junior high a snore. He lives for his botany experiments, which have made him National Science Fair champ for two years running. To his great pleasure, Grady's r sum earns him a spot on a research team working to save the rain forest. But the team leader, Dr. Carter, has assumed Grady is a college student, and when he realizes his mistake, he promptly saddles the boy with all the scut work. Grady masters the chores, then finds time to do his own projects, which include learning to control the movement of plants and trees using sound waves. In the process Grady also discovers something dangerous and evil: unbeknownst to the native peoples and the research team's U.S. benefactors, Dr. Carter is populating the rain forest with genetically engineered poison trees. While this book is aimed at a slightly younger audience than Thomas's previous YA titles, Grady's knowing, flip tone will appeal to Thomas's older teen fans. Grady's botanical talents skirt the fantastic and many readers may find themselves slowed by several discussions of scientific theory. But those who stick with it will find plenty of compelling situations. The author, who is also the creator and writer of the TV series Cupid, brings his screenwriting experience to bear as well; he provides the kind of exciting visual detail usually associated with action movies. Ages 10-14. (May)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Thirteen-year-old Grady Jacobs is a science nerd extraordinaire who has been invited to spend the summer in Brazil helping an exclusive research team save the rain forest. When he begins to study the data, however, Grady discovers that he can maneuver sound waves to control the movement of trees--and that the head scientist has misrepresented the study results in order to satisfy the financial backers. Grady, overweight, smart-alecky, self-centered geek that he is, decides that the evil scientist should be exposed before the rain forest is destroyed forever. With the convenient help of a local tribe (one member luckily speaks English), and the vegetation that he can control through his computer, Grady attempts to save the trees, the tribe, and his own life. Grady is not very likeable at first; he is mean to his mother, unfriendly at school, and extremely egotistical. Other science nerds will love him, but most readers will rather hope a giant pig eats him. This does not change until about halfway through the book when he stops whining about the food, the heat, and the hard work, and actually becomes concerned about others. His ability to manipulate trees by blowing on a flute is possible, I suppose, but seems unbelievable to the point of distraction. This bit of fantasy will not bother most young readers. In fact, the suspenseful plot, exotic setting, and scientific details will draw lots of younger fans to join his existing club of older readers. VOYA Codes: 3Q 4P M (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8).
To quote KLIATT's May 1999 review of the hardcover edition: Thomas, author of Rats Saw God and other popular YA novels, offers a slightly different kind of story here. It's a wild adventure novel featuring a thirteen-year-old protagonist who happens to be a prodigy in, of all fields, botany. Young but brainy Grady jumps at the chance to spend his summer with a research team in Brazil, searching for a way to save the rain forest by combating deforestation. He learns that Dr. Carter, leader of the research team, has developed "super trees" that grow much faster and produce more oxygen than regular trees. Relegated to scut work at the camp, curious Grady pokes around and soon discovers the shocking truth behind Dr. Carter's New Forest: the chemicals used to make the trees grow are toxic to animal life. Armed with this knowledge, as well as his discovery of a way to make plants move at his bidding, Grady escapes to the nearby village of some friendly Amazonian natives and then must fight for his life and that of his friends while foiling Carter's scheme to promote his poisonous forest. Grady's adventures in the Amazon make for an entertaining, if farfetched, story. His transformation from a soft target for bullies to a buff warrior will appeal to young readers, and the details of life in the Amazon (e.g., blowguns, spiders for supper) are intriguingthough I found the many details about computers dull reading. There's humor here, and lots of action, and the idea of controlling the movement of plants is appealing. Action-adventure fans will enjoy this. KLIATT Codes: JRecommended for junior high school students. 1999, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 186p, 20cm, 98-39992,$4.99. Ages 13 to 15. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Gr 6-8Grady Jacobs, a 13-year-old botanical genius, is invited to participate in a rain forest study supported by international business interests. He has won several science fairs, and his research into the cloning of plants has interested Dr. Phillip Carter, head of the reforestation Embryo Project. When Grady arrives in Brazil, he is relegated to grunt work. In between gathering food, cooking, and cleaning, he investigates Dr. Carters New Forest, a grove of super-growth trees used to reforest a clear-cut area. The secrets he discovers send him fleeing into the wilds, with Dr. Carter hunting him at every turn. Befriended by members of a local tribe, the newly named Green Thumb must fight to stop the deadly Embryo Project and save his own life. Thomas has created a middle-school version of his earlier heroes, a joking smart aleck whose humor draws readers into his world. Too sure of his own intelligence, Grady is bored by school and anyone his own age, especially the local bullies. His botanical research has been conducted like his social lifecold, clinical, and as faraway from others as possible. Through his struggle to survive, Grady learns the importance of valuing different kinds of intelligence. The vitality of the rain forest forces him to realize that research in a vacuum cannot answer vital questions. Our hero ends up a better scientist, people smart, and a little humble, which is an appealing combination.Mary B. McCarthy, ACLIN/Colorado State Library Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
In a departure from his realistic novels, Thomas (Satellite Down, 1998, etc.) tries a science fiction adventure intended for younger readers, with less success. Grady, 13, is a junior-high geek and botanist who is invited to join a secret forest regeneration project in the Amazon. The project is directed by the mysterious Dr. Carter, who turns out to be, not surprisingly, a standard mad scientist. When Grady arrives at the site he is scorned because his colleagues were unaware of his youth; assigned to drudge work and left alone at the campsite, Grady surreptitiously analyzes the data the team has collected, and realizes that Dr. Carter is growing poisonous trees that are destroying the food chain. When his efforts are discovered by Dr. Carter, Grady escapes from the camp and joins the local Indians. The book shifts into an action adventure tale, as Grady fights hostile tribes and attempts to foil Dr. Carter. While the scenario is imaginative and Thomas doesn't completely abandon his forté, characterization, at the core this novel is a kids-know-best shoot-'em-up. When Grady blossoms into an Amazonian superhero, the author's fans may feel the threat of incredibility, but they'll also have to turn every page to the end. (Fiction. 10-14)