Magic isn’t the only legacy Mr. Ian Johns wants for his bickering sons. The Postmaster hoped the boys would bond during a family trip, but they twist his vacation plans into a race. Ewan, Zane, and Ganix soon find themselves far from home, facing choices that are far from easy. Three routes stretch from coast to coast. The rules: each brother—and his two companions—must check in at post offices along their route. At these waypoints, they stamp in with their personal seal and report their progress by postcard.
Ganix has a gift for making friends and for making mischief. Book #4, Up the Mountain finds the youngest Johns brother making good time. Sure that he’s way ahead of his older brothers, he takes a break from racing. Peachtree City’s upcoming festival sounds like fun. But one little accident leads to big trouble, and it’s up to Ganix to make things right. The Byways books are a coming-of-age story times three with an educational twist. The storyline includes a states-based geography quest.
Welcome to Liberty: Big cities and hill-country outposts thrive on busy byways, but people are scarce in the Wilds, where mythical creatures are alive and well. Folks commonly use lanterns to light their homes, and peace is kept by rangers on horseback. In the Byways books, readers will encounter dragons, griffins, river monsters, and rogue magicians.
Magic is a rare trait that runs in families. Some magical gifts are quite useful; others are downright quirky. Like the talent inherited by members of the Johns family. They’re Changers who can take the form of an animal. Not that magic will make winning the race any easier for Ewan, Zane, and Ganix.
Educational Twist: Each of the Byways books is tied to one of the fifty states and borrows from its history and geography—icons, mottos, landmarks, people, places, and famous firsts. They’re hidden throughout the story, turning the series into one long game of hide-and-seek. At the end of each Byways book, there’s a master list that covers everything from the state tree to the state insect. Nicknames, sports teams, state heroes, and national parks also find their way into the story. States are covered in order of ratification. Up the Mountain takes its cues from “The Peach State,” Georgia.
Chart your course to CJMilbrandt.com, where readers can stamp into the Waypoint Log and take part in a very special Hometown Challenge.
“There’s a reason no one but the rangers go up there,” Trudie whispered.
“Really?” Ganix asked, curious now. Maybe there were lions or wildcats in the surrounding hills.
“Nobody braves the trip because of Old Man Benning,” Rebecca said in a low voice. “They say that he has magic!”
Ganix couldn’t understand why the girls seemed so nervous. “Is that bad?”
The girls looked at each other, and then Trudie said, “You know what they say. It’s dangerous as dragons to mix mankind and magic.”
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'Up the Mountain' is the fourth book in the Byways series by C. J. Milbrandt, and the first with the youngest brother, Ganix, as its main character. The race with his elder half-brothers across Liberty requires Ganix to travel with two other people. Since they don't have to be the same people the whole time, he's been travelling with the postal couriers from town to town. And in accordance with his sociable nature, he's been making friends everywhere he goes. But in Peachtree City, his cheerful progress is stalled when he accidentally breaks something that's needed for the annual Blossom Festival. And to make up for his mistake, Ganix is going to have to venture ... up the mountain. Each state in Liberty corresponds to a state of the United States, with many references to places, names and well-known features of the real state. 'Up the Mountain' is set in Liberty's equivalent of Georgia. The series is intended to advance in reading level along with its readers. Books 1-4 are written for readers between six and ten years old, although later 'episodes' will have a progressively higher reading level. I'm an adult reader in Australia, so I don't normally read books intended for this age range. And spotting the references specific to each American state is likely to give greater enjoyment to the youthful inhabitants of those states than it does to me on the other side of the world. :) But I enjoy C.J. Milbrandt's writing no matter what she writes, so I'm willing to recommend it likewise to anyone who appreciates carefully-chosen words and well-defined characterisation.