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Adventures of the Northwoods (A Ten Book Series) Review by Debra Brinkman• The Disappearing Stranger
• The Hidden Message
• The Creeping Shadows
• The Vanishing Footprints
• Trouble at Wild River
• The Mysterious Hideaway
• Grandpa's Stolen Treasure
• The Runaway Clown
• Mystery of the Missing Map
• Disaster on Windy Hill
Aois Walfrid Johnson
Mott Media, LLC
1130 Fenway Circle
Fenton, MI 48430
This series of ten books begins in 1906 in Minneapolis. Kate O’Connell’s father has recently died, so it is just Kate and Mama. Life is a struggle for the two of them, and 12-year-old Kate decides to speak to the pastor about finding Mama a new husband. This is only the first of many, many rash decisions Kate will make during the series.
Mama does remarry, which results in the two of them leaving Minneapolis to live in Western Wisconsin. Kate is not at all happy about that, but she starts adjusting to farm life with two new brothers and a little sister. Anders is the same age as Kate, and the two of them find themselves in all kinds of mysteries and adventures. Many of these also include Erik, a boy their age from the nearest farm.
Most of the books are placed in Wisconsin, but the Nordstrom family does get out and about a little bit, including a trip to Michigan, and some adventures in Minnesota.
These books are a great level for my 10-year-old to be reading on her own, but we have been working through the series as a read-aloud. It is fun to talk about the places we have been as we go through the stories. For instance, we have family in River Falls, WI. It is also fun to talk about stories my Swedish grandmother told of growing up in South Dakota, just a few years after this story is set.
Knowing some of my family history helps me to really appreciate the value of this book series too. Immigrants faced so many challenges, and these books address some of them. Most were struggles that were common in the majority of farming communities at that time, whether primarily immigrant or not. Some are a bit more unique.
Doing this as a read-aloud has been interesting. I expected my daughter to love the books, but I don’t think my 12-year-old son would have given them a chance had I asked him to read on his own. There is enough boy action going on that he has really enjoyed the series, and is begging for “one more chapter” as much as his sister. In fact, the 15-year-old has insisted that we read when he can listen too.
Johnson clearly knows the area, and has done her research on local history. She gives some historical information at the end of each book, which adds to the feeling that we are reading about real people since some of the minor characters actually did exist.
The best part of the series, though, is watching the kids grow over the year and a half that the series covers. They all make mistakes in judgment, they all learn from those mistakes. Kate struggles with fear, and she struggles to trust that God really cares. She also spends a lot of time worrying about what other people think. The kids keep on encountering solid adult role models who help them through their situations with an appropriate piece of advice or example set.
They also keep on encountering various nefarious characters, so there is always another mystery to solve. I remember loving various kids’ mystery series when I was younger, and this is similar in some respects to those. You know as you start a book that something will be stolen or missing, and if it weren’t for these kids, the guilty party would never be found.
Johnson has written a series about the Vikings, which we own, and also a series set on a riverboat during the Civil War era. I plan to stop into her store in Alexandria, MN, this fall and pick that series up there. These books are delightful, so I want to try out some more.
-Product review by Debra Brinkman, Crew Administrator, The Schoolhouse Review Crew, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, September, 2016