Books
10:46 am
Thu February 17, 2011

Time: A Novel

It is unlikely that Roger Reid will soon quit his day job. Along with Doug Philips and Wendy Reed, he recently shared a regional Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for the "Alabama in Space" episode of the very successful, long-running series "Discovering Alabama."

Audio ?2011 Alabama Public Radio

It is unlikely that Roger Reid will soon quit his day job. Along with Doug Philips and Wendy Reed, he recently shared a regional Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Writing for the "Alabama in Space" episode of the very successful, long-running series "Discovering Alabama."

That day may come, however. His young adult books, the Jason Caldwell novels, are becoming increasingly accomplished and popular, especially among middle school readers.

In the first, "Longleaf," Jason, the 14-year-old son of son of scientists-his father is an astronomer and his mother a biologist-finds himself in Alabama's Conecuh National Forest. He meets Leah Pickens, a bright, sassy charmer and the daughter of Sheriff Shirley Pickens, a man.

The two have adventures in the forest. They are assaulted and captured by a family of feral rednecks, the Morrises, but of course, ultimately escape. (Otherwise there can be no series.)

Along the way the reader learns a good deal about longleaf pine forests, now greatly diminished and endangered, and the rattlesnakes, tortoises, etc., they harbor.

In the next novel, "Space," Jason goes it alone. He finds himself at Monte Sano Mountain near Huntsville and, while he is avoiding injury and death at the hands of, this time, a very well-educated white collar villain, the reader learns a bit about astronomy and the galaxy.

Jason comes to Alabama again, but not without some misgivings. He thinks to himself as he is packing, "I swore I would never go back to Alabama. I was there in April and almost got killed. I was there in June and almost got killed. Now here it was August, and Leah wanted me to meet her in Alabama."

But seriously, his sister says, "What are the chances that someone would shoot at you again?"

Reid decided to pair up Jason and Leah again in this third novel, and that is a good idea.

The two youngsters really like each other and are on the brink of young love. It is charming to watch, as they try to figure out if they are girlfriend/boyfriend or not, and experience a certain amount of jealousy when some other boys and girls, from Oneonta High, show up.

The action takes place at the Steven C. Minkin Paleozoic Footprint site, near Oneonta, Alabama, an old strip-mining area, rich in fossils 320 million years old. Most of the fossils are plants, mainly ferns, but even more rare and important, there are fossil tracks, footprints of ancient amphibians, sometimes traveling in herds, which is fairly rare for amphibians.

One learns a little geology and paleontology in this book, in a painless way, as these matters are explained to Jason and Leah.

Reid also has a little fun with Alabama unisex names. Not only is there Leah's father, the sheriff named Shirley; there is a male scientist named Ashley. The two commiserate.

Reid also humorously describes the various odd headwear fossil hunters wisely wear to keep off the Alabama sun, "silly hats," among them one that resembles "an upside-down flower pot."

There is, naturally, a mystery at the fossil site. Someone has been stealing the more valuable fossils and selling them on Ebay.

And we learn early on that the frightening redneck Carl Morris has escaped from prison. One can only assume that he will make an appearance, but it is all good fun.

Jason and Leah have dangerous adventures, as one expects, and survive, as one expects.

If Reid continues this series, I am sure he will only increase his band of faithful young readers.

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