Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Zan-Gah, seeking his lost twin brother in a savage prehistoric world, encounters adventure, suffering, conflict, captivity, and final victory. In three years hero passes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood and a position of leadership among his people. Themes include survival, brotherhood, cultures, gender roles, psychological trauma, and nature's wonders and terrors. This is the electronic version of Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure, which has been awarded Mom's Choice Gold Medal for Series, the Eric Hoffer Notable Book Award, and was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year.
And here's what I thought: Please allow me to state that I do not typically read middle-grade fiction (I stick to older YA and adult material, for the most part). However, the publisher contacted me to see if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing this book, and the companion story (review coming up in a day), and frankly, I was curious. I had seen a number of reviews on other blogs, so I figured it would be something completely different for me. And, I was right.
This story has a quick pace, and great storytelling, and I think it would be a great choice for a young reader who enjoys adventure. Right from the beginning, the book sets the stage for where Zan-Gah lives, and what his life is like. The author has definitely done his research -- the descriptions of life seem completely realistic. I found it interesting how Shickman created the culture, not only of Zan-Gah's own people, but of neighboring people as well, dividing certain tasks between men and women, and how Zan's character grew and developed through the book. The writing is descriptive and clear, and dialogue is straightforward, as well.
The only thing that threw me off a bit was when, in chapter 3, there was a bit of a twist. The chapter begins with the reader reflecting back on something Zan-Gah did, in the past. It broke the flow for me slightly, as it's mentioned that Zan-Gah did something a long time ago, and then, one page later, we're back into Zan-Gah's present time again. I understood why the author did this (I think), because it sets up part of the story, and also gives a bit of explanation of how Zan-Gah discovered something important. However, it temporarily broke the even pace that I had been reading at.
I believe this book would really appeal to younger readers who enjoy adventure stories, because it's got a great main character, a believable setting, a quest, and even a battle. I also think it would be a great book to read aloud (or listen to being read aloud). The writing is basic enough to be understood by a younger reader, but the author never talks down to his audience (which I really appreciated). I really enjoyed this book, and reached right away for the second book (review is coming up....).
First sentence: "From a long distance a traveler, or some wild thing, might see within the deep and absolute blackness of night an intense orange light which looked from afar like a glowing coal."
Thoughts on the cover: Bold title, and the lion (in action-pose), clearly convey that this is an adventure story. Definitely eye-catching to a young reader.