Reading level: Middle Grade
Size: 296 pages
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Release Date: October 1, 2011
Stand Alone or Series: 1st in a series
Source: ARC from Librarything Early Reviewers Program
Rating: 1/5 stars
I got a copy of this book through Librarythings’s Early Reviewer program. I was very excited to read it; it sounded like a wonderful middle grade fantasy adventure in a fantastic Alice in Wonderland like underground fantasyland. Well it wasn’t. What it was was very difficult to read, confusing, and obnoxious. I stopped reading after 100 pages because it hurt my brain and because it made me sad. It made me sad that some poor kid might pick this book up to read and then never read fantasy again because of this book. I am very sensitive to the fact that kids picking up fantasy like this are very impressionable and think that quality stories should be targeted at that age group. Enough rant…on to the review.
Maggie and Jesse have a mother who is dying and are being forced to move out of their house because of her medical costs. Then one night their Christmas tree grows roots in the living room and opens the way into a magical crystal world full of crazy characters.
I am trying to think of something good about this book. The pictures throughout were very well done and fun. The book itself was a very nice package; nice cover, pages, and font. The idea behind the book is a wonderful one. Reading the synopsis made me excited to partake in this magical adventure.
Unfortunately it was incredibly poorly executed. Initially the language and conversations between the characters was a bit awkward but I was willing to overlook that as the adventure continued hoping I would get to the wonderful fantasy world I had been promised. Well, things just got worse.
When Maggie and Jesse enter the underground they apparently awaken some of the crystals down there. We don’t know how this happens. Things aren’t very well explained and that whole scenario is very hard to picture (despite the wonderful pictures). I was constantly re-reading to figure out exactly how all this magic was working and still didn’t really understand what the author was trying to portray and picture. That is just the worst…a fantasy world that is so poorly described that you can’t even picture it.
Still I was willing to wait to understand the world and continued reading hoping to get to the good parts. This is when things go even worse. A plethora of characters enter the book, they aren’t well described and are hard to distinguish from each other. Then all these characters start to speak; Glaser has written the characters’ words to phonetically represent the accents they speak in. So basically when the characters talk they each use a different set of misspelled words to represent their accents. It was almost impossible to read. I had to read parts of the book outloud just to figure out what the heck a given character was saying and even then sometimes the sentences didn’t make much sense.
Can you imagine giving a kid a book with the majority of the words misspelled? It confused the heck out of me and I can’t imagine what it would do to a kid learning to read. I thought maybe I was being dense and tired, so I gave the book to my husband and asked him to read a couple pages. His response was “What in the world does that even mean? Is this really a published book?”
Here is an example: “Yoo will be rooled IN, against, undt for. Rooled goot undt bad, right undt wrong, rooled here, rooled zere, up und down, und everyvhere!” That is the guy with the German accent speaking. Here is another quote from the next page “But they eeth th-thoft an’ their out-thide eeth m-moofing’, an’ th-thee other were undereth’d, an’ there eeth no r-rool for–” This is the guy with the lisp. I believe there is also a guy with a French accent; all of it is spelled goofy and impossible to read. My eyes are glazing over just typing the quotes in for you, yes they are really spelled like that…I double and triple checked them.
Overall, I pretty much detested this book…it is one of the worst books I have read this year. It made my eyes cross, my head hurt, and made me sad for any kid who has this book as their first foray into fantasy. Please go read Harry Potter, or Fablehaven, or Percy and the Olympians or The Books of Beginning….do not even try to read this book. I have no idea where all the positive review are coming from. Sure it is a cool concept but it impossible to read and very poorly written. The concept counts for something but not for everything.