It’s hard to believe a book could contain too many chickens, but this novel may test readers’ patience.
For a brief period, Muppet movies used to retell classic stories: Muppet Treasure Island or The Muppet Christmas Carol. This book feels like a Muppet version of the Bible. It’s a religious allegory filled with trolls, squirrels and talking chickens. Jackson Jones is lost inside a giant tree. The tree comes with both an elevator and an elevator operator, who may or may not be God. Some children will find the religious imagery bewildering: If the garden Jackson enters is meant to be Eden, why is there a toilet made of gold at the center? (There’s more bathroom humor here than in most Christian fiction.) The humor is often the book’s strength, with chapter headings like “There Are Absolutely No Eels, Kangaroos, or Rhinoceroses in This Chapter.” But the wacky tone can make the book feel haphazard, with elves and rats popping up at random, never to be seen again. It doesn’t help that there are cliffhangers every few pages. Readers may tire of chapters that end with a gasp or a scream or a “What was that noise?”Many of the jokes work, but too often Kelly seems like a desperate comedian, pulling out joy buzzers and chattering teeth and one rubber chicken too many. (Fantasy. 9-12)