In this debut children’s novel, a misfit rock girl embarks on an eventful journey to find out why she’s different.
In the village of Gemstone, mineral people and rock folks lead separate lives. Gem, a young girl whose parents are minerals, is born a rock. Tormented at her mineral school, she transfers to Granite Elementary, where she’s happy until the secret of her parentage comes out. Ostracized by the other rock kids, Gem yearns to solve the mystery of her birth and teams up with a trio of other outcasts (Opal, Pyrite, and Obsidian) for a trek through the Jeweled Forest, facing the dangers that lie beyond. They hope to find answers from the long-lost, near-legendary scientist Great Diamond. During their action-packed escapades, the four brave an attack by toothy toxic minerals, encounter a meditating Moonstone and a Tiger’s Eye and her cubs, and cross the poisonous Mercury Lake. They’re kidnapped by rock warriors and attacked by a spike-covered giant made of stibnite. There’s a dragon, too. In the end, what the friends finally learn about themselves and the people of Gemstone will change their lives. Boughazian, a veteran 3D computer animator, has woven many types of minerals and rocks into this appealing fantasy series opener—people made of gray shale, limestone, marble, or topaz; lapis lazuli butterflies; sulfur monkeys; jadeite frogs; malachite moss; and a labradorite dog. (The book includes a glossary, beginning with amethyst and ending with zincite, that features colorful images by debut illustrator Lockwood.) The fantastical worldbuilding, deftly rooted in the familiar (school, soccer, student bonding, and peer conflicts), works surprisingly well. (In the expert, fine-lined drawings that begin each chapter, debut illustrator Sigua renders the characters as typical preteens, albeit with subtle touches suggesting their rock and mineral properties.) Yes, the story’s moral—that similarities are more important than the differences that can divide people—is predictable, but it is well-integrated into the adventure-filled plot.
This engaging tale conveys a message of unity through vivid characters, plenty of action, and an unusual fantasy setting.