Middle grade review

The Dreaded Cliff by Terry Nichols

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Summary from Goodreads:

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. 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? 

ARC provided by the author for an honest review.


I really enjoyed this sweet little novel about a pack rat that goes on a dangerous journey and quest to save the pack rat’s home. Along the way she makes new friends and unexpected allies, and you learn a lot about pack rats and other desert animals too.

Pack rats are very interesting animals and are cute (unlike their European relatives). They live in nests that they like to keep found objects in. Flora, the narrator of this story, enjoys the simple things in her life, a good meal, her home and the few other pack rats she hangs with. She is also quite smart and resilient even when faced with her nest moving, (it is inside a camper) and her finding herself far from home. She then meets an assortment of other animals including a porcupine, a kangaroo rat and a rabbit who help her when she needs it most.

But she has another quest that she must complete alone. Getting to the Dreaded Cliff and saving the ancestral home of the pack rats. But something evil is living there now and it takes everything that Flora can to complete that task.

If you like learning about the desert and the animals that live there, this will be an entertaining story with an endearing narrator that you will just love.

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