Tree Castle Island by Jean Craighead George.
HarperCollins Publishers: NY, 2002.

When Jack's Uncle Hamp is called away for a couple weeks, Jack sets out to explore the Okefenokee Swamp in a canoe he built himself. As he explores, he finds evidence in this wilderness of another human inhabitant-a raft, a basket, and a plate. He meets a dog who answers to the same name as his dog (Dizzy), and he keeps hearing an eerie, echoing call. He doesn't know if it's an animal, a ghost, or what. He gets off-track in the swamp and finds a dead bear just as he really needs food. He creates a camp for himself on an island where he can repair the damage to his canoe caused by an irritated mama alligator. He's in for a great surprise with visitors to his island home, one of which causes him to question his past and change his future. This meeting changes the whole dynamic of the story which started out with an exploration of nature, thoughts about life expectations, and his sense of achievement and wanting confirmation of that achievement.

I love Jean George's description of nature and the contemplative thoughts as Jack paddles through the swamp. The dominant theme of the book was a complete surprise-as much to me as it was to Jack. From that point on, I was totally hooked.

related-Okefenokee Swamp/Georgia, survival, camping, foraging, exploration, adventure, twins, brothers, adoption, achievement, boat craft, construction with native materials, wilderness, self-discovery, social issues

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