New Maine Times Book Review: Lost Trail

Posted Wednesday, December 21, 2011 in Culture

New Maine Times Book Review: Lost Trail

By Donn Fendler with Lynn Plourde and illustrations by Ben Bishop

DownEast, Dec. 2011

64 pp. $14.95

ISBN 978-089272945-6

Reviewed by Lee E. Cart

Just in time for the holidays, one of Maine’s most famous true tales has been rewritten as a graphic novel. With the help of Plourde--author of more than twenty-five picture books--Fendler’s unforgettable, “Lost on a Mountain in Maine” is now an attention-demanding high-end comic book. With vivid illustrations by Ben Bishop, this classic tale of survival is as intense and thought-provoking as the original story from 1939.

How does a twelve-year-old boy, separated from his friend during a sudden squall on the side of Mount Katahdin, endure nine days in the wilderness? In this engrossing version of the saga, readers see Fendler as he wanders the thickly wooded and rocky wilderness for those nine days. They watch as he survives by eating wild strawberries, drinking from streams, and praying to God that he will survive the ordeal. Riveting details and energetic drawings bring the heart of the story to the forefront, placing readers in the wilderness with Fendler as he battles swarms of mosquitoes and black flies, struggles to walk on feet that are bloody and bruised, and faces wild black bears.

It is the story of perseverance in the face of adversity, of hope in the face of despair, of the prayer and faith that carried this boy to safety. And just as it is the story of a lost boy, it is also the story of the hundreds of people who searched for the missing child; the multitudes who never gave up their own hope of finding Fendler alive. Whether one believes in God or not, the overall message is uplifting as Fendler finds his way downstream, to a cabin on the river, and eventual rescue.   

During these December days when the sun is at its lowest and much of the news from around the world is one of death, destruction, and despair, it is refreshing to read a classic tale of optimism and courage. Regardless of its graphic novel status, Lost Trail deserves a spot in everyone’s library, young and old alike, for the message it leaves in the minds of its readers—that despite bad odds,  things can and do turn out right.

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