Reviewed by Grandma Bev for TeensReadToo.com
Sixteen-year-old Hannah Stahlhut, a home-schooled high school student, decided she would test her writing skills and enter the 2007 Tweener Time International Chapter Book Competition. The challenge was for high school students to write a book especially tailored to 8-12 year olds. Her entry, JOURNEY TO THE HOMELAND, emerged as the winning novel.
In the mythical land of Diggeret, an eight-year-old orphan, Keegan, is looking for a home. He is able to communicate with animals, and has developed a friendship with a jaguar that he calls Adrian, named after his mother.
This gift is misunderstood and, due to fear, he is forced to leave every place that he comes to until he finds a family in the settlement of Crempton who offer to give him a home. For the next three years, he lives with them, helping with chores.
In the neighboring country of Iviannah, the King has heard rumors of a child who can talk to animals, and he sends his soldiers to search for this child.
They overhear Nora, a young girl from Keegan's village, as she tells a wild tale of being rescued by a jaguar, and they are sure that she is the child they are looking for. They kidnap her to take her to the King. Keegan realizes that they were really looking for him and so he and Adrian set out to rescue her, along with the help of a smart-aleck bird.
Their adventures and ingenuity in outsmarting the soldiers is electrifying. The suspense builds to a dramatic and satisfying climax.
JOURNEY TO THE HOMELAND is an exciting story with fast action, great characters, and a well-developed plot that will keep young readers entranced from beginning to end.