An intriguing premise, but one that fails to develop.



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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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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Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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