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on Aug. 20, 2012 :
Journey to the Spirit Kingdom is like fresh cilantro spiking clear chicken broth. Food similes are risky for illustrating my point because not everyone likes the same dishes, but "a breath of fresh air" seemed too overused. The minty-clean feeling and genuine smile one gets after finishing this first book of Rob Henning's trilogy can be considered a breath of fresh air, but that phrase does not do enough justice to the lift one feels after hearing this tale.
Young Savuti, who will quickly endear herself to readers, could be your little sister or niece or daughter. She is however a little bit more blessed - born a princess (extraordinary enough these days), youngest of 11 brothers (just as extraordinary as being a princess), and born a dreamwalker (pretty extraordinary compared to being a princess or having 11 brothers). And yet she is quiet and humble and keeps to herself, as anyone who has 11 rambunctious brothers eventually learns to do. A princess yet pretty much ignored, privileged yet set aside by most of her family, a dreamwalker yet unaware of her unique power. It was the designs of a greedy Englishman and the dedication of an Animal Spirit Council trying to protect the lovely little kingdom from ruin that helped her come to her own and discover these blessings.
The author has scored a home run with his delightful heroine (a goal would probably be more appropriate, since soccer figures a lot in the story). A lot of the principal characters are all just as well-crafted in shades of strengths and weaknesses, hopes and desires, making them feel very real. Take King Chinsala, Savuti's father: not exactly father of the year material, but Henning implies that this happy-go-lucky ruler of Makgadigadi has his heart in the right place despite his self-indulgent ways. My favorites though were two animal spirits: Kubu, the archetypal Fool Sage, who inadvertently ends up dropping a gold nugget of wisdom every time he opens his mouth; and Bhungane, who watched, listened, learned, and taught Savuti to do the same.
Rob Henning uses a light touch in painting this story, and young adults will appreciate how genuine his characters are. I personally think readers of any age will find themselves in a happy mood after finishing the book, and maybe even ready to see just how much fun soccer is. I believe that Henning will hit his target audience right between the eyes with his shimmering world of people and creatures that they will want to hold close to their heart. Can a tale be adorable? I certainly think this one is, and I encourage you all to find out for yourselves.
Review also posted at Bookideas.com
(review of free book)
on Aug. 06, 2011 :
As a teacher I am always looking for examples of good story telling to use as models for my students. I am pleased to have found another! After briefly introducing the main spirit characters of the story, Henning begins with a vivid description of its setting. He uses much descriptive language and imagery to bring the reader into the events as they are unfolding. Instead of bluntly telling the reader about the character of the heroine, Henning uses her actions and words to give a very good idea idea of her personality. She also grows stronger as the story moves on, and learns more about herself. The story, reads almost like a fable, and has several classic messages to impart regarding greed and inner strength. But unlike a fable, the story happens in the modern world and tackles modern problems such as destruction of the environment. However, the novel is not preachy but written at an audience level of 8 - 12 years. I'll be using this novel as a read-aloud in my Grade 3 classroom this year!
(reviewed long after purchase)
on June 19, 2011 :
I love this book. Its about the inner strength that a hero must tap into to make their dreams a reality. And it celebrates all that mother nature has to offer.
I recommend this book for all people who love animals, who believe just a little in ghosts, and who want to see the environment protected for future generations.
(reviewed the day of purchase)