Don't tell anyone -- the only safety is in secrecy. During the summer of 1894 the giant sequoia trees -- the oldest living things on earth -- are being felled for lumber in northern California. When fifteen-year-old Francie finds a note hidden in the stump of an old sequoia, she immediately recognizes her sister's handwriting. But Carrie died in an accident six years ago. Could Carrie's secret still be important?
Francie's search for the truth turns dangerous, and she needs to get to St. Joseph fast. She's faced with the choice of either giving up, or riding the flume, a rickety track that carries lumber from the mills in the mountains to the lumberyard in St. Joseph. Should Francie risk her life for the secret her sister fought to keep? This is a beautiful book that I first read 6/7 years ago, and I have loved it ever since. Francie lives in a logging town situated by a large forest of sequoia trees which are rapidly being cut down for lumber. Her father runs a hotel that prospers due to the logging, and is all for it. Francie is not as enthusiastic as her father, but there is nothing she can do. She is busy helping at the hotel and counting the tree rings on a dead sequoia for a man who is writing a newspaper article to try to make people see how bad it is to cut down the trees. But Francie also has a ghost to live with - a memory of her older sister Carrie, the headstrong, adventurous girl who died years before in a land slide up on the mountain. As the years have passed Francie has grown to resemble Carrie a great deal, much to the sorrow of her parents. In little things like wearing her hair differently she tries to mask the resemblance, but she knows that every time they look at her, they see her more vibrant, more alive sister - the one she thinks more deserved to live. This is a touching, sad story about a girl finding her own place in a world that will always remember her vibrant sister, and about learning to step up to the plate and speak your mind about things. Because when Francie and her cousin (Carrie's best friend) find a note Carrie wrote before her death, they uncover a secret - a beautiful tree, a king of the forest, that Carrie claims belonged to her. And the loggers will do anything to bring it down. Although the actual flume riding is a very small portion of the book, I can't think of any title that would fit this book better. Parents, this book has nothing bad in it whatsoever, except for dealing with Francie and her family's very real pain, and the horror they feel from Carrie's accident. It is not gruesome, it is not vulgar, there is absolutely no romance, and it even mixes in some very real history that makes you want to google the real sequoias! I read it at seven, and absolutely adored it. Of course, don't take this to mean older people won't like it! I started reading very young, and as I get older I discover more layers to the books I read when I was younger, things I skipped as a little girl. This is a wonderful book that will make you cry, and will leave you with a great feeling of finality and triumph.