This is likely my second favourite middle grade read to date, just slightly behind my forever favourite: Nevermoor. (If you follow me on instagram you will likely already know this as I say it at least 3 times a week).
So, basically, this review may be a bit biased.
Arlo Finch has a lot the same elements that work for me in Nevermoor and The Storm Keeper’s Island. Fast paced adventure, a bit of spookiness, and really cool magic. Just add in Arlo’s great group of friends and the most epic summer camp in existence.
I just can’t get enough stories centring around camp – the tenting, the nature, the campfire – my whole reading life I have gravitated towards spooky camps and spooky camp stories.
Ok, I am kind of geeking out and not really talking the story.
You’ll likely need to have read Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire to really appreciate Lake of the Moon, but the general concept is still the same. Quickly upon arriving in Pine Mountain, Colorado, Arlo realizes there is a lot more to this small town. A lot of weird stuff. A lot of magic. He and his friends (Indra & Wu) are rangers of the Pine Mountain Company and explore all things odd, creepy and magical in the Long Woods. John August’s passion for camping and guides/scouts is readily apparent and just makes you want to go on an outdoor nature adventure. He is an incredible story teller that just keeps you entertained all the way through.
Throughout Lake of the Moon, Arlo and his friends are piecing together past clues and their run-ins with forest sprites and codes written in tree bark to uncover some powerful secrets regarding Pine Mountain and the Long woods. Somehow they all centre & connect back to Arlo’s family.
Arlo is an incredibly likeable, believable boy who struggles with his own confidence that is burgeoning under the friendships with Indra and Wu. John August’s friendship dynamics here are very authentic and includes real friendship feuding and squabbling. It is so wonderful to see a best friend relationship between a girl and a boy, without it leaning towards romantic “crushes”. Indra and Wu are strong, fleshed out characters in their own right. In fact, considering the great quantity of characters in this story none of them felt flat or underdeveloped.
It’s just the right amount of fun, magic, mystery and spook. It would make an excellent summer read and I can’t recommend it enough for adventure loving readers.