Tag Archives: Children’s Books

Big Dreams to Achieve: A Review of Oli the Old Owl

Oli the Old Owl by Lee Keene book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a young boy standing in a forest behind two houses. He’s looking at an owl that’s sitting in a tree whose leaves are gone. It’s winter and snow covers the ground. Title: Oli the Old Owl

Author: Lee Keene

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 29, 2021

Genres: Children’s, Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 10 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A story of loneliness and fantasy.

Imagination transmogrifying into Reality!

A secret memory that only the little boy will know!

A quaint memory that will stay with the little Sanford.

The Winter of 1998.

December.

Manchester, Tennessee.

7-year old Sanford ambles about….

An active imagination that takes him far and wide!

Questions for which physically, he will probably never get answers to……probably.

Could Sanford encounter a woeful creature with thoughts and abilities to share?

His imagination leads him amongst the bucolic grounds of Coffee County…..

Stories of the Old Owl, who woefully wasted his life, while wishing and thinking.

This Old Owl named Oli.

Oli hides high amongst the trees.

His fears have bedeviled him, and crushed his vim and vigor.

Oli wanted something that very few will achieve, but refused to change.

His insecurity enwreathed him mentally, and would not leave him!

How long can Oli hide?

If Sanford and Oli were to meet, what thoughts might transmogrify?

Review:

Winter is the perfect time to reflect on the past.

I admired the author’s willingness to experiment with children’s fiction. Just about every other book I’ve ever seen that was written for this age groups was a picture book, but this one contained no pictures at all other than the one illustrating the cover. It was also fascinating to meet a character who had not achieved the goal he set so many years before. Stories written for this age groups usually show characters succeeding at whatever they put their minds to do even if they have to fail a few times in the process. These were only two of the ways in which the author purposefully broke the rules, and I found his choices intriguing and refreshing. There is definitely something to be said for modelling emotionally healthy ways to fail to such a young audience.

There wasn’t a great deal of plot development or conflict in this tale. Sanford and Oli spent a great deal of time talking about their feelings and comparing Sanford’s plans for his life with Oli’s disappointment at how things had turned out in his own life. As much as I appreciated seeing male characters talk about their feelings so openly and freely, I did find myself feeling restless with how slowly everything was turning out. It would have been helpful if these two characters had faced an obstacle either together or separately that reinforced their earlier conversations. When combined with the lack of pictures, the slow pace would make me reluctant to read this to young children who haven’t recently dealt with a failure of some kind.

The fantasy elements of the plot were subtle and gentle. They made it all feel like a fable at times, although it didn’t actually seem to be based on any pre-existing fables or legends so far as I could tell. This pattern repeated itself with the handful of Christmas references that were thrown into the storyline but never expounded upon. While this wasn’t a Christmas story per se, it also reminded me of the many different types of tales that are told during and about that season. There is definitely something to be said for leaving so much room up for interpretation as this was something I could see myself recommending to people who don’t celebrate Christmas or generally read the fantasy genre. The little hints of those elements were enough to appeal to those of us who enjoy reading about such topics  but not so much as to dissuade other audiences from giving it a try in my opinion.

Oli the Old Owl was a thought-provoking read.

A Review of A Fictional Fable of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch

Book cover for A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch by Berenice Corney-Thompkins. Image on cover is a drawing of a frog-like creature wearing pants and a suit jacket, sitting on a stump, and looking at a butterfly.Title: A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch (Fictional Fables Book 1)

Author: Berenice Corney-Thompkins

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 17, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A charming tale of two frenemies and their one-upmanship, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch will delight children of all ages, and please their guardians too! With absorbing artwork, charismatic and crafty characters, palaverous and periphrastic pleonastic narrative and dialogue, the Fictional Fables series will appeal to fans of Victorian-era compositions as well as contemporary retroists!

Review:

Subtle is the name of the game here. 

I appreciated the way the narrator gently shared the message of Ptolemy’s adventure. He learned an important lesson along the way, but it was shared in such a way that the reader gradually realized what was happening at the same time he did. The storyline revealed certain facts along the way, but there never so much of a whiff of moralizing about it. Rather, the characters naturally grew and changed as a result of their experiences. That is a breath of fresh air in this genre, and I can only hope it becomes a much more common way to show readers the possible positive effects of their actions if they make certain choices in life. 

While I completely understand that this tale was written in a Victorian style that is rarely used in modern picture books, the vocabulary in it made it difficult for me to determine who the audience was and who I should be recommending it to. There were multiple words that many contemporary adults don’t know the definitions of, much less the early grade school audience I believe this was written for based on the content of the plot itself. If the target audience was clearer, I would have chosen a higher rating. 

With that being said, the subtext of this story was marvellous. Ptolemy might have appeared to be a fairly straightforward character at first, but there were more layers to his personality and understanding of social nuance than I first assumed. My favourite scene happened at the end when the audience finally gets a peek behind his happy-go-lucky persona. This was one of the major reasons why I assumed this was actually meant for adults and confused by how it was marketed. 

If you enjoy mature picture books with multiple layers of meanings, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch is a good place to start.