An intriguing premise, but one that fails to develop.

TRUTH SEEKERS

THE PRINCESS AND THE DOOR

Two friends embark on a make-believe adventure that turns real in this first book in Thomson’s (Truth Seekers: Be Strong and Courageous, 2015, etc.) middle-grade Christian-fiction series.

One afternoon, best friends Isabella Johnson and Josie Springwood decide to play “imagine if” and make up a story that incorporates the key that Isabella wears on a necklace. It’s the only thing that Isabella has left of her mother, who disappeared five years before. The girls use the key on an old stone door and, to their surprise, it fits perfectly. Passing through the door transports the girls into a beautiful forest, and they quickly realize that their game has led them to another world. Then a band of men capture them, and the youngsters soon learn of the troubles of the land, involving the evil King Ahaza and the beloved queen he captured. It also becomes clear that there may be more to Isabella than she knows, and that the girls’ arrival could herald a change, both for the new world and for Isabella’s broken family. Thomson’s book has a promising premise and starts off strong. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t smoothly develop either the story or the characters. Instead, the narrator frequently tells readers that characters suddenly know the truth of something (“somehow she knew this boy was trustworthy”; “One thing I know is that you are your mother and father’s daughter”). Isabella starts as a shaken, confused, and unsure girl whose prayers lead to sudden, unexplained knowledge, including her solid determination that she’s a “servant-princess” who will lead the people against the evil king. The author overuses divine inspiration as both a reaction and solution to nearly every situation, resulting in a story with little suspense. Ultimately, there isn’t much in this book that will capture readers’ imaginations beyond the initial setup, as they learn relatively little new information about the characters as the story goes on.

An intriguing premise, but one that fails to develop.

Pub Date: July 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62839-189-3

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Xulon Press

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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