Orca. (Orca Anchor). Feb. 2022. 96p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781459828612.
Gr 7 Up–Fifteen-year-old homeschooler Matt does not enjoy trapping beavers in the Yukon backcountry. He spends his days walking the wilderness and loading his backpack with bloody furs to satisfy Dan, his filthy and brutal foster father. When he stumbles on a baseball-sized nugget of gold, Matt starts to fantasize about cashing in and taking off for a new life in Vancouver, away from abusive Dan and his drunken wife, Jill. Matt believes they take in foster kids only for the money; a previous kid disappeared a decade before and was never found. After Matt inquires about the value of a nugget during a visit to nearby Dawson City, he discovers a hidden camera in Dan’s trapline cabin and realizes his secret is out. He will have to outsmart Dan and go on the run immediately. A scene where Dan ties Matt up and threatens to torture him with a blowtorch may be too much for sensitive readers, but mostly the action moves briskly, twisting and turning as Dan tries to force Matt to give up his secret. The title is part of a new series from Orca with low reading levels, in this case first to second grade, combined with high-interest plots and text features such as a dyslexia-friendly font, to accommodate readers with disabilities or other literacy challenges. Sentences are short and the vocabulary is not complex.
VERDICT An excellent choice to hand to middle and high school reluctant readers, especially where outdoor adventures are popular.

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