Updated: Apr 18, 2021
Minnie is alone, high up in her favourite tree, looking out over a distant forest fire. She and her stepfather Dan are stuck with each other, living in their small cabin at the foot of the mountain after Minnie's mother died. When Minnie and her friend Billy discover four giant footprints on a mountain trail, Dan puts it down to hoaxers. But Minnie knows better. Kaayii is sitting at the top a tree watching the smoke from a raging forest fire that has forced him and his clan to move to this side of the mountain. He's not sure about the humans living down by the sea below. Gradually their parallel worlds entwine in a moving tale of grief and healing in a remote mountain landscape.
Bigfoot Mountain is the debut middle grade novel by Roderick O'Grady and is about a girl called Minnie and her stepfather Dan, who live up in the mountains and come into contact with Bigfoot. Minnie and Dan are both coming to terms with the recent death of Minnie's mother and are both grieving. There has been a fire on the other side of the mountain which has led to lots of wildlife moving over to the side that Minnie lived on, wildlife that includes Bigfoots.
I found this story warm and charming. It is initially told from Minnie's point of view and she seems to be a girl full of life and energy. she lives with Dan, her stepfather and he is a much quieter character. At the start of the book the relationship between these two characters is strained. The only thing they seem to have in common is their grief over losing Minnie's mother. They live in a cabin on the edge of a lake, at the foot of a mountain, idyllic surroundings, beautifully described by the writer. Most of the cabins, used as holiday lets are empty but there is another family living in the area: Connie and her son Billy and their dog Musto. This is the sum total of human contact in Minnie's life during the summer holiday that this story is set in. Connie is warm and loving and is operates almost as a surrogate mother to Minnie.
About a third of the way into the book the perspective changes to Kaayii, a Bigfoot. This is where the story really comes into its own and began to really engage me. I had enjoyed reading about the characters in the beginning and enjoyed the careful build up of suspense as Minnie and co discover signs of Bigfoot. The description of the mountains and forest are particularly beautiful and are a real homage to nature but it is when you go back over the events you have just read about through the eyes of a Bigfoot that the story really comes alive. Bigfoots are presented as gentle and caring creatures, although they are also immensely large and strong. They are protectors of the forest and their world and society was fascinating to see.
I have to admit that this story did not go the way I expected it to and I am glad of that. The relationship between Minnie and Kaayii grows subtly and carefully and is akin to the relationship between a person and an intelligent wild animal. It is very skilfully written and the real beauty of this story is in how it celebrates the natural world and reminds us of our responsibility to it. One of the messages of the book is about humans living responsibly and respecting the balance in the natural world. The other relationship that is carefully built upon is the relationship between Minnie and Dan. They are so different as character at the start of the book but they gradually find common ground and are united by their love of the place they live and the memories of Minnie's mother. I had a lump in my throat near the end of the story as the story ark of Minnie and Dan resolved itself.
This is a very well written story and I think anyone who has an interest in the natural world will really enjoy it. I was transported to the North American mountains reading this with its vivid, beautiful descriptions. It is a book that celebrates nature. As a teacher, I think this book would be a nice addition to any class library, particularly for children aged 8 and above.
The book comes out on 29th April, here are some links if you want to pre order it: