SHE SHOULD HAVE seen the deadly tracks.
She should have heard the hungry growl.
She should have remembered her enemy was out there, prowling, stalking, looking for something to eat.
Looking for revenge.
But Crash Adams was too excited.
Just the other day, she had discovered a rabbit trail.
Crash hadn’t seen a rabbit trail on her mountain for a long time, and she was eager to bring home dinner for the family. She could already smell the wild blackberry sauce, and her mouth watered at the thought of salted, honeyed meat. She also had a plan for the soft, durable fur. She only needed one more.
So instead of noticing the tell-tale signs of danger, Crash bounded carelessly up the curvy mountain trail with her dog, Zorro, bouncing along beside her.
They skipped over small crag and stray roots. They ran under the cooling shade of black oaks, buckeyes, and bay laurels. They hopped over thin creeks and sprinted through open clearings of wild grass, thistle, scrub, and sagebrush. They twisted their bodies to avoid sticky thickets of blackberry and ironwood.
Crash was 10 now, tall and strong with a scramble of uncombed hair and muscles hardened by farm chores and hunting. She wore dirty blue jeans and her favorite yellow shirt, and she carried a small backpack filled with gear, food, and a book or two. She always carried a book or two.”
And so begins the story of Crash Adams, a character who is, I hope, a little bit different than what young boys and girls are accustomed to nowadays.
Crash doesn’t go to school. Instead, she spends her days on the family farm and property in Marin County, hunting, fishing, doing farm tasks, and getting into — and right back out of — all sorts of trouble.
Her family doesn’t have a lot of money. They live on a farm, and Crash helps keep food on the table by hunting or tending the garden.
She doesn’t have a TV or a cell phone, and she spends much of her free time out on her own, much like we probably did as children, and much like, I think, many well-scheduled kids today wish they could.
For anyone raised on Little House on the Prairie, My Side of the Mountain, or Hachet, she might seem familiar — a strong, confident, knowledgeable character who delights in adventure and nature. For anyone accustomed to today’s bevy of princess tales or the umpteenth “mean girl” dilemma book, she might be a welcome addition — a character young girls and boys can emulate for her grit, ingenuity, and courage.
Here’s how — and why — she came about.
My wife and daughter ride horses on a farm way out in Western Marin. It’s only an hour or so from San Francisco, but it feels like a different planet altogether. I created Crash after one of our farm visits. My daughter and I were gazing at a mountain across the two-lane country road from the farm, and we were wondering just how much adventure we could have on it. Could we see hawks, mountain lions? Coyotes, bobcats? Could we find a swimming hole and jump in? Could we catch a rabbit or go fishing?
A seed was planted that day, the way it sometimes is for writers and makers of stories. We got to talking more and more about the life a farm girl might live today, and I fell to remembering all the stories my grandma told me about her life on the farm back in Michigan and soon enough, Crash was born.
I wanted to tell simple, fun stories about nature and farm life in an age when most kids (my daughter included) are drawn to computers or iPads, phones or some manner of video system.
I also wanted to create a strong girl character who was the center of the adventure, not the sidekick or love interest or the “minority feisty.”
In an age when simple things like toys and books are so sharply divided by gender — adventure and violence for boys; princesses and “girl drama” for girls — I purposefully wanted to create a character that girls could see a little of themselves in and boys could see as central, not as a prop to be won or saved.
I was asked exactly who Crash was for one day. Boys or girls.
The answer, I hope, is both.
She’s for anyone who loves adventure and wants more of it.
In the first book, One Ear Returns, Crash sets out to trap a rabbit and ends up encountering a mountain lion. In the second book, The Hunt, she tracks a deer over miles of wild countryside, and she must solve problem after problem to find her way back home. The third book, which is still in development, is about the time she discovers an injured red-tailed hawk and must confront her fears to help rescue it.
When we were reading the Little House series together, my daughter and I delighted in recreating the little crafts or recipes contained in each book. We churned our own butter or crafted our own doll out of corn cobs, an unholy little creation that still sort of creeps me out.
Each Crash Adams book allows kids to do the same thing. I called upon my craft and DIY experience to work in a fun craft or nature project that kids could replicate at home. Much like Little House, I wanted to work the instructions into the narrative, rather than provide a Step 1, Step 2, Step 3 type instruction breakdown. I hope it doesn’t break up the story, and yet, if they want to, kids can follow along and try something new. (So watch out. You might have requests to build rabbit traps or bow and arrow sets soon.)
One Ear Returns comes out this Monday, February 1. The Hunt will most likely make its debut in March. I’d say they are probably best for early middle readers — kids who are out of Magic Treehouse books but not quite ready for, say, Harry Potter. They’re probably best for 2nd to 5th or 6th grade, depending on your reader. They’re short, easy-to-read page turners — the kind of books I loved as a kid, and the kind I hope many kids today will enjoy.