Foreword Reviews

Ferocious Fall

Our Wild Weather Escapes

Clarion Rating: 4 out of 5

Ferocious Fall is a wholesome and informational middle grade story that brings to life childhood in the 1950s.

C. A. Hartnell’s middle grade novel Ferocious Fall follows best friends Pete and Carol Ann through seasonal adventures and weather changes.

Carol Ann and Pete are eleven years old, growing up in El Monte, California in the 1950s. This story opens with a cloudburst that sends the two friends, their schoolmates, and younger siblings running for cover. It’s the beginning of autumn, and coming weather changes include a dust devil, flash flood, hailstorm, and dangerous lightning. Between these changes come day trips, school bullies, and a series of unsolved burglaries that make for an extra spooky Halloween.

The 1950s come alive with details about air raid drills, kickball, hot rods, and popular slang. It’s a world bursting with things to do, and typical activities of the era are enticing. Training Carol Ann’s new puppy, a day picking apples at a local orchard, hiking at Sturtevant Falls, a class trip to a gator farm, and organizing a Halloween party: these scenes are encouraging evidence that time outdoors is worthwhile.

Between the main characters, Pete loves science and history, and Carol Ann is also interested in learning. Their explorations incorporate the story of Johnny Appleseed, the science behind cloudbursts and dust devils, and biblical advice on handling bullies. And there’s a mystery to solve, too: as more burglaries are reported, Carol Ann starts keeping track of clues, even when doing so puts her in danger.

Siblings add to the cast, and a list of characters at the front of the book makes them easy to keep track of. Especially prominent are Hawk, Pete’s older brother who drives a souped-up hot rod, and Pete’s thirteen-year-old sister Mary Jane, who’s pretty but bratty. Parents and relatives figure in as well, underscoring the theme of family fun.

Its mix of weather, adventures, history, and mystery gives the book variety and wide appeal. Readers will at some point guess who the burglars are, but the anticipation of seeing them caught carries the story through to the end, at which a roundup of the lessons learned is provided, stressing the importance of letting adults know when bullying becomes more than mild teasing and pointing out how Carol Ann sharing her clues with police helped them to stop the burglaries. Fun extras—including photos, web addresses for places visited in the book, and a recipe for the kids’ favorite cookies—add to the learning fun.

Ferocious Fall is a wholesome and informational middle grade story that brings to life childhood in the 1950s.

Reviewed by Susan Waggoner

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the publisher will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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