In the first book of a new series Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet, you immediately realize you are reading something unique. The book is a fictionalized account of the real life adventures of two real life boys, Gannon and Wyatt Wheeler, traveling to Botswana.
The book has the feel of nonfiction because the text is written as a journal, going back and forth between entries written by both boys. Each boy has his own voice and each tells of the same events from his individual perspective. Factual information about Africa, its people and animals abound. Sprinkled throughout are actual photographs of the boys and of Africa. To make it even harder to tell fact from fiction, the book comes with a DVD interview of the two boys talking about their experiences traveling to Africa to research the book.
As you read, however, it becomes apparent the adventures in the book are fictionalized. The boys would have to be pretty unlucky to encounter all the things that befall them. Starting out with a close call with a mother white rhino that knocks their own mother out of the vehicle they are riding in, the boys run up against everything from frightening giant crocodiles to being held hostage by an angry poacher. Through the book, Gannon and Wyatt experience one harrowing conflict after another.
In fact this intense drama, including graphic accounts of wounded and dying animals, also makes this book a bit difficult to classify as far as intended age of reader. Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana just won a silver Moonbeam award in the Best First Book – Chapter Book category. On the other hand, it is listed as young adult at Amazon. I would say probably middle grade based on content. The main characters are supposed to be fifteen, and kids usually like to read about older main characters. It might be appropriate for reluctant readers who like their adventure rapid fire.
What we see in the video trailer is the part of the book that I enjoyed, the flavor of actually being in Botswana.
Doesn’t that make you want to travel, too?
As an aside, the boys, both real and fictional, are homeschooled. If you are interested in finding out more, Reading to Know has an interview with author Patti Wheeler
Reading level: Young Adult (Amazon)
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Claim Stake Publishing, LLC; Har/DVD edition (June 2010)
Book provided for review.
Edit: This book is nominated for a Cybils in Middle Grade Fiction.