Giles (JESUS SITS in the DRIVERS SEAT, 2014, etc.) tells the story of young Thomas, the narrator, who wants a “puppy brother.” After briefly using his mother’s binoculars to see a faraway dog park, Thomas decides to build an optical instrument of his own. As he searches for materials in a closet, something hits his head, and though he completes his telescope, when he looks into it, he falls into a magical land. There, he and Princess Jade embark on a journey guided by magical creatures until they land in a dog park, and he feels his face being licked. Opening his eyes, Thomas finds himself in the hospital, recovering from a concussion. It’s his birthday, and his cousin Jade is holding his gift—the puppy brother he’s been longing for. Throughout the tale, Thomas’ mother shares world history lessons, but the integration is awkward, especially the attempt to link the Battle of Iwo Jima and binoculars. The way Thomas’ optical instrument is described—“binoculars somehow end up being a telescope that is really a kaleidoscope”—is confusing, as is the timing of his concussion. Most readers will think Thomas is hurt when he begins hallucinating, but his mother’s explanation in the hospital indicates it happened earlier. Because the narration doesn’t clearly tie Thomas’ desire for the optical instrument to his desire for the dog and because unnecessary details—such as the history of the Fresnel lens or all the components required to construct a homemade kaleidoscope—interrupt, the story’s momentum is lost. The book is poorly edited, with uncorrected errors in punctuation and sentence structure; e.g., “What is a dog park I ask?” The choice to avoid colloquial language in the dialogue, for example, the repeated use of cannot and I have instead of can’t and I’ve, makes the voices unrealistic and stilted-sounding.
As with binoculars or a telescope, inability to properly focus mars the view.