Peak, by Roland Smith (lexile: 760; AR book level: 5.0; 246 pp)
“My name is Peak. Yeah, I know: weird name…. It could have been worse. My parents could have named me Glacier, or Abyss, or Crampon.”
So begins the adventure, narrated by 14-year-old Peak Marcello, whose parents (as you might guess) are world-class mountain climbers. Peak has inherited their climbing genes. However, at the start of the story, he is living in New York City with his mom and step-dad, where the only mountaineering practice he gets is on skyscrapers — after dark, and illegally.
When he’s caught climbing the Woolworth Building, an angry judge agrees to probation only when Peak’s famous mountaineer father, Joshua Woods (whom he hasn’t seen in seven years), agrees to take him out of the country to live with him in Thailand. Peak soon learns, however, that Josh has bigger plans — his expedition company is preparing take teams up Mt Everest, and he wants Peak to become the youngest person to scale Earth’s highest mountain.
Peak is whisked into the complex world of an Everest base camp, where he gets a crash course in high altitude acclimation under the coaching of a wise Sherpa-climber-turned-monk named Zopa. Together with Zopa’s grandson Sun-Jo, they tackle the brutal, life-threatening conditions on Everest. On the way to a surprising ending, Peak will not only test his physical and mental strength, but also come to understand what really matters in his life.
Roland Smith is the master of outdoor adventure in exotic locales. His stories move quickly, and all are well-researched. He has been to many of the places he writes about (Myanmar, Kenya, rain forests, a Hopi Indian reservation), and he told me via email that he was a climber himself (though not high altitude) in younger days. Beyond the compelling adventure, however, Smith’s books are about how his main characters change and grow in the as they face challenge and adventure.
Some of his other books, all of which I can highly recommend:
- Thunder Cave (lexile: 620; AR book level: 4.2; 250 pp)
- Jaguar (lexile: 690; AR book level: 4.5; 249 pp)
- The Last Lobo (lexile: 850; AR book level: 4.7; 178 pp)
- Cryptid Hunters (lexile: 750; AR book level: 4.9; 348 pp)
- Tentacles (lexile: 740; AR book level: 5.0; 319 pp)
- Elephant Run (lexile: 750; AR book level: 5.0; 318 pp)
Roland Smith came to our library and public schools in 2006, and his programs were fun and fascinating. You can find out more about him and his books on his website: www.rolandsmith.com.