Published by Scholastic
Summary: Toby is hiking the Appalachian Trail from his home in Vermont to the northern end in Maine. From the opening scene, it is evident he’s not as knowledgeable and well-prepared as he should be for such a strenuous journey, but it is equally clear that his determination comes from a need to prove himself. As the story unfolds, the reader learns of the friendship between Lucas, the leader, and Toby, the follower, and of the bucket list they made one June with ten goals for the summer. One of these, “Jump off the rope swing at the quarry”, led to Lucas’s death, and Toby’s guilt over this has driven him, a year later, to try to cross off the final item, “Hike the Appalachian Trail from Velvet Rocks to Katahdin”. Along the way, he befriends two older boys; they save him from hypothermia, and Toby later saves one of their lives. He also rescues an abused dog who teaches him the power of love. Toby’s growth as a hiker along the journey becomes a metaphor for his personal growth, as he finally learns to forgive himself and move on. 240 pages; grades 3-7.
Pros: Plenty of adventure and the gradual unfolding of Toby’s and Lucas’s story will keep readers moving quickly along The Trail.
Cons: The whole “wilderness journey as life metaphor” has been done before (hello, Gary Paulsen); but of course that doesn’t mean readers won’t be able to enjoy yet another take on it.