A Shadow in the Wild by Whit Masterson. Dodd, Mead (1957), 214 pp.
Janie Cooper, a spunky and sensitive ten year old, is ending a lovely week camping with her industrialist father in the mountains east of San Diego. She’s wandered far from the camp while he takes a nap. Using her toy telescope, Janie’s startled to see a man she’d noticed at the tiny nearby settlement shoot an older man who was with him. Then she’s terrified when he turns and takes a shot at her. Janie runs away and quickly gets lost. Back at settlement tall and boring forest ranger Gib Scott is arguing with his pretty girlfriend, Alys Hoffman. He wants to get married; she wants to study art in Paris. They are interrupted by Janie’s father, who is looking for his daughter. Gib is confident he can find the girl in the wild country he knows so well. If he fails, a wider search will be necessary.
The authors, Bob Wade and Bill Miller, realize that experienced readers won’t fear for Janie. This isn’t the sort of novel in which ten-year-old girls die at the end. But they may empathize with her as she faces a wild puma, runs out of food and becomes increasingly confused and exhausted. Much of the book, however, focuses on the searchers rather than the searched, and their number grows as the story continues. Readers meet the sheriff and his horse troop, the helicopter crew, a fellow with a pack of bloodhounds, a couple newspaper reporters, and a platoon of convicts from a work farm. The narrative moves around from one character to another, showing not only what they’re doing but also how they interpret their various roles. Readers not concerned about Janie may still be interested in the many ways a community responds to a crisis.