First Line: The magic had always been there.
Tep Jones lives with his parents on a dry farm in the Four Corners section of New Mexico. Within walking distance is Tep's favorite place: the ancient Anasazi cliff dwelling called Picture House. But when he visits Picture House during a lunar eclipse and picks up a bone flute left behind by grave robbers, Tep finds himself in the grip of powerful magic. When his mother becomes gravely ill, it's only by piecing together the mysteries of Picture House that Tep can save her-- and himself.
Many many moons ago, I used to be in charge of the children's section of our village library. I occasionally like to pick up a middle grade or young adult mystery to take a look at what's available for younger readers now, and I have to admit that I'm glad I chose Kokopelli's Flute. Will Hobbs has written an adventure that kept me hooked from first page to last.
First of all, there's the idyllic (to me) setting: the Seed Farm in the New Mexico section of the Four Corners, within walking distance of an ancient cliff dwelling. I immediately put myself in Tep's shoes as he and his dog Dusty (the best canine companion a child could ever have) would walk there to explore.
I also learned a lot about dry farming and the rare seed business. Another fact of life-- pot hunters who destroy ancient sites for the artifacts that they can sell-- provides some excellent suspense and action sequences at the beginning and end of the book.
There's some magic in this book that calls for a reader's willing suspension of disbelief, and although I didn't really buy into Tep's changing into an animal every night, I did enjoy those sections-- especially when Tep stopped panicking and started using his head.
Kokopelli's Flute starts out rather slowly but builds momentum to a satisfying conclusion. Tep is a good-hearted, smart boy, and at that age, I would've been his friend in a heartbeat. Part of me does wonder at how much children in the proper age range would actually enjoy this book. Something tells me the "city slickers" might find it boring, and that would be a shame.
Kokopelli's Flute by Will Hobbs
Aladdin Paperbacks © 1995
Paperback, 148 pages
Children's adventure, Ages 10-14
Source: Paperback Swap