I have a nine-year-old daughter, so every time I go into a bookstore, I am on the lookout for strong female protagonists. I spend an inordinate amount of time flipping through books that have been recommended by friends, quickly trying to evaluate their female characters, hoping that they’re active, interesting, and actually contribute something to the story. Basically, I’m trying to get a sense of whether or not the female lead will cause my daughter to pump her fist and scream “Heck yeah” or quietly shut the book and forlornly say “But she didn’t DO anything.”
Crash Adams made my daughter pump her fist.
The Adventures of Crash Adams: One Ear Returns is the first in a new, independently published middle-grade reader series by Mike Adamick. I’m a big fan of Adamick’s. He has a tremendous blog and he’s written a number of incredibly fun nonfiction books – titles like Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects, Dad’s Book of Awesome Recipes, and Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Projects.
Adamick’s nonfiction works celebrate the wonders of kids getting their hands dirty and actually making something, doing something, building things from scratch, and his first foray into fiction carries those themes over nicely. The story of One Ear Returns is simple and short, but the character is anything but.
Crash Adams is a dirt-covered, self-reliant ten-year-old girl whose family moved out to a small farm in Marin County, California a few years earlier. Crash roams the wilderness surrounding her farm with her faithful dog Zorro – who is preternaturally skilled at understanding commands – and learns as much as she can from experiencing nature firsthand.
If your kids enjoyed Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they’ll find a kindred spirit in Crash. She’s the kind of singularly capable, adventurous kid that we don’t see in many works for middle-graders. In juvenile novels, you get a lot of precocious children. You get curious and precocious kids like they’re going out of style. But Crash isn’t precocious. She’s clever and quick and hardened by experience, even though she’s only ten. She feels like a throwback, like the lead character from a Laura Ingalls Wilder book who was dropped off in modern-day California and was told that she could ditch the gingham and put on a pair of jeans.
The story opens with Crash and her dog Zorro on a rabbit hunt, and I love how Adamick doesn’t shy away from the more complicated side to hunting. In most books for middle graders, Crash would’ve been something gentler, like a photography enthusiast “hunting” for a great shot. But, instead, Adamick refuses to shy away from the reality of hunting and has his female lead carefully construct a rabbit trap and, ultimately, kill a rabbit. But Crash isn’t cruel or callous. She is incredibly pragmatic about her hunt, acknowledging that she detests hunting for sport, that she intends to prepare the rabbit for her family to eat, and that her family survives, in part, due to their ability to live off the land in this way. It might turn off some readers, but, if this rabbit hunt scene appeared in a Little House book, no one would bat an eyelash.
It’s telling that my young daughter, who hates hunting, at first yelled out from the other room “I can’t believe she’s hunting a rabbit! That’s sick,” while reading Crash Adams, but later told me “She’s really smart and not mean about her hunting.” Crash didn’t convert my daughter into a hunter, but my kid did respect how seriously she took her hunting.
The main plot of One Ear Returns kicks in when, during the rabbit hunt, Crash slowly realizes that a mountain lion is nearby. But not just any mountain lion – this is One Ear, a lion that attacked Crash months earlier, leaving her with a large scar. Thus, the hunt storyline flips from predator to prey as this ten-year-old girl starts sharpening sticks into spears and strategizing into how she can get out of the woods alive.
That feels really intense for a ten year old, right? This is one of the reasons why I kind of love Crash Adams. In the world of iPhones and CCTV cameras on every street corner, it feels so strange to read about a young girl alone in the woods with only her dog and her wits to keep her alive. But it’s strange in a good way. Because this isn’t a scary story – Crash isn’t neglected or abused in any way. Crash is loving it. She’s in her element. She is constantly testing herself, on her own, completely alone, and learning from her experiences. Kids don’t get to do that very often in today’s world, and my daughter found it, frankly, thrilling to read.
And I think other girls – and boys – will have the same experience. Just because Crash is a girl that doesn’t make this a girls’ book. Crash is a hardcore kid, the kind that will make other kids say “whoa,” the kind that other kids will measure themselves against, regardless of gender.
As I mentioned before, One Ear Returns is a short, quick read. My daughter polished it off in an evening and quickly asked for more. (More volumes are on their way, apparently.) It’s the story of one tough girl, out in the woods, trying to get herself and her dog home alive.
If you have a young kid who loves to get their hands dirty – or an over-monitored kid who needs to live vicariously a little – they might really enjoy this new middle grade series. And, as a card-carrying city boy, I’m already looking forward to what I can learn next from Crash.
THE DETAILS ON THE ADVENTURES OF CRASH ADAMS:
AGE RANGE: The stated age range is 8-13, but I think most well-read, older elementary school kids would enjoy it. It falls somewhere in between chapter book and YA fiction. It’s definitely slighter and shorter than most YA – reads more like a thrilling novella or short story.
PAGE COUNT: 95 pages
RELATED WEB SITES: You can learn more about the author, Mike Adamick, here.
BUY IT, BORROW IT, OR FORGET IT?: I like this one – it’s a quick, inexpensive read. It comes from a small press, so you won’t find it at Target or Wal-Mart (yet).
I will admit – this is the very FIRST book that my daughter ever read on an e-reader. I had conflicting feelings about that (I am decidedly old-school in my reading preferences), but she seemed to enjoy the experience and I think One Ear Returns is short enough that the downsides of e-reading (eye fatigue, overwhelming aversion to Apple products, etc) didn’t have a chance to kick in. This might be a good title to test on the Kindle for your kids.