From the jacket copy, courtesy of HarperCollins New Zealand:
Rumour is flying around the west coast gold fields that Tom McGee has struck it rich and found a nugget of gold as big as a man's fist. So no one is surprised when next his campsite is found wrecked and abandoned. Men have been killed for a lot less on the tough goldfields of 1860s New Zealand.
But one person is convinced Tom is not dead. His headstrong daughter, Charlotte. Solving the mystery is not her first task, though. First, she must get to the coast. A skilful horse rider, she disguises herself as a boy and joins a cattle drive across the Southern Alps. To survive the dangerous drive over Arthur's Pass and to keep her identity hidden from the vicious trail boss, she'll need the help of her dog, her horse, and her father's friend, Tama. She knows she can do it - she has to - but what will she find? And will her new American friend, Joseph, help or hinder her quest? Charlie is in for the ride of her life - and the stakes couldn't be higher.
Ever since I reviewed Susan Brocker's "The Wolf in the Wardrobe," I've been a big fan of this New Zealand author. Her latest, THE DROVER'S QUEST, (Harper Collins, 2012) doesn't disappoint. It starts off with a chilling scene of presumed murder and gallops along as Charlotte sets out to discover what's happened to her father. "Charlie" is an appealingly brave character and an accomplished rider, but it's danger all the way as she joins a cattle drove across the Southern Alps. Truly, it could be death at every juncture.
Brocker's love for animals shines throughout. The dogs and horses are every bit as brave and intelligent as their human companions. I kid you not that my heart was in my throat on several occasions. Brilliant, tense adventure.
Teachers, this would be an excellent book for your middle grade library. (My son's 7th-grade teacher had a fantastic library because she had a curriculum where the students were expected to read at least one novel from every continent. This would have taken care of Australia.) Set in 1866, there's mention of gold rushes, Maori folklore, New Zealand geography, and even--in the character of Joseph, who is part Cherokee--mention of the Civil War and life for Native Americans.
So, because I'm a kind and generous soul, and I want other people to experience Susan Brocker's storytelling, I'm offering up my signed copy of THE DROVER'S QUEST. Just leave a comment here, and I'll choose a winner on Friday the 24th at 9 p.m. PST.
May the Mayhem be with you!