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The Dreaded Cliff

The Dreaded Cliff

The Dreaded Cliff

Author: Terry Nichols
ISBN: 9781951122126 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781951122171 (ebook)
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Price: $12.95
Pages: 250

Flora and her packrat life are perfectly ordinary, perfectly predictable.

She avoids strangers, especially opera-singing porcupines and rabbits that make prickly pear cactus pads talk. She's never flown through the air, nor drooped herself before a kangaroo rat king. And she would never talk with a blood-thirsty owl, because everyone knows owls can't talk. Besides, they eat packrats.

Flora's perfect life is all about snuggling in her treasure-packed nest and 'snibbling' snacks with her packrat pal.

There's only one thing--looming nearby is the dreaded cliff. Ever since she was a wee pup, other packrats have warned "beware!" and Flora's stomach twists into knots.

All this is about to change when old Grandma Mimi tells Flora about their ancestral home, stuffed in a dark crack in the cliff. Countless packrats have raised their young and left their marks and memories there. But they stay away now, ever since a killer wiped out a litter of pups and took over. Flora tucks the story of the home deep in her heart. Then tumbles into a faraway canyon.

Can she survive dangers that seem to lurk around every tree stump? And how will she ever get home? Life turns to unpredictable as Flora meets quirky critters, strange adventures, and deep mysteries as she discovers what's truly important in her life. And she finds she's not such an ordinary packrat after all.


Kirkus Reviews
Flora the packrat lives her packrat life in her beloved nest amid her cache of treasures.

However, her peaceful life is overshadowed by the dreaded cliff, a crack in a nearby outcropping with an ominous place in packrat legend. Like other packrats, Flora has been told to beware of the dreaded cliff and to avoid it. And so she does, until an encounter with a packrat matriarch sheds light on the real story and the tragic events that occurred there. The story arc takes Flora on a journey far from her home, where she meets new friends and learns about differences and balance in the natural world before returning to confront the dreaded cliff once and for all. Help comes from unexpected places and, finally, from within. This is a delightful story for young readers interested in animals and nature; the story, written by a former National Park Service ranger, is rich with scientifically accurate details about the desert species that populate Flora�s landscape. Additional factual information about the species in the book can be found in the author�s notes. The book is also a feast for developing vocabularies, as Flora�who talked early�loves words and puns. The resulting text is linguistically rich and frequently humorous. Spot art at the beginnings of chapters helps readers visualize the animals and setting, enhancing the mood of the story.

An entertaining animal adventure.

Review by Jennifer Bohnhoff, author of Where Duty Calls

Flora is a plump little packrat who thinks, in her own little packratty way, that she is a goddess. Like all of her species, she collects treasures: shiny things and prickly things and soft things to decorate her nest, which is under the floorboards of what we could call a Volkswagen van, but she calls a jangly-crate. That's one of the joys of this book: the reader sees the story through the eyes of a rodent who does not always know the human words for the things around her. Another joy is that Flora loves words, but also mangles them. This teeny Mrs. Malaprop is at her finest when she is addressing his muskiness, errr, manliness, errr mushiness, King Cyrus, a kangaroo rat with an outsized sense of self worth.

Flora lives a perfect packrat life. She snuggles in her treasure-packed nest and 'snibbes' snacks from the munch mound with her packrat pal, Gertrude. The only thing that threatens her serenity is the dreaded cliff, a frightening and fabled place that she has been warned to stay away from since she was a wee pup. When old Grandma Mimi tells Flora about that it was their ancestral home until a mysterious killer wiped out a litter of pups and took over, Flora feels called to reclaim the cliff. However, her plans are thwarted by an inadvertent trip in which she loses her home in the jangly-crate but finds some allies and discovers her own pluck. In the end, Flora must find her way home, and find the courage to face her own fears.

Each chapter in this book begins with a charming black and white illustration by Odessa Sawyer. At the back of the book is a short but informative section on the real animals behind the characters in this book. It is a fine and entertaining book for young readers who are interested in the flora and fauna of the American southwest.


1st Place Gold Winner 2021 CIPA EVVY Book Awards - Animals/Pets/Nature
2021 Finalist New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards - Juvenile and Animals/Pets
2022 Finalist New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards - Juvenile and Animals/Pets

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