Fourteen-year-old Dylan Shands has traveled from his North Carolina home to canoe the Rio Grande with his Uncle Alan and cousin Rio. Uncle Alan works as a river guide along the Texas-Mexico border, and has promised the boys a week-long adventure on the river. Unfortunately, when Dylan arrives in Texas, he learns that his uncle has left to work in Alaska for the summer. Dylan and Rio have some tough decisions to make about continuing the trip. They deal with the consequences of those decisions in Will Hobbs’ Take Me to the River.
As you’ve probably guessed, Dylan and Rio decide to take a multi-day river trip without an adult. A few cringe-worth decisions later, the boys find themselves facing a hurricane and record-level rapids. To make matters worse, a gun-toting stranger with a young hostage forces Dylan and Rio to help him escape downstream. It will take courage, river skill, and a whole lot of luck for the boys to make it back home safely.
As teachers and librarians know, Will Hobbs is the go-to author for outdoor adventure novels. His books are action-packed and plot driven, yet he still manages to develop characters that readers care about. In a Will Hobbs adventure story, young people learn a lot about themselves.
Adults will appreciate reading about the consequences of the questionable choices that Dylan and Rio make. There are many good “stopping points” for discussions about the boys’ decisions. For example, when the boys learn that a hurricane is approaching the area, should they continue their trip, or seek shelter from the storm? Fortunately, Dylan and Rio acknowledge their poor decisions and learn from their mistakes. The boys are intelligent and sincere. Their downfall is their inexperience; they simply haven’t considered all of the possibilities.
When adding this book to my classroom library, I would download and print some photographs of the Rio Grande and tape them inside the back cover. Hobbs describes the scenery well, but many readers just won’t be able to envision the 80-foot canyon walls or understand the remoteness of the Texas Big Bend without seeing a picture. This simple effort will help readers in the city or the suburbs enjoy the book.
Buy a copy of Take Me to the River for your classroom library, and add two or three copies alongside the other Will Hobbs books in your library collection. Recommend the book as a read-aloud for tween-level classrooms, and offer it as an option for literature circles.