CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 31 . . . . April 13, 2012
Ten-year-old Sevilla Ray has a special ability. When she is frightened, she shrinks down to a height of 18 inches tall. Her parents know about her strange power, but it isn’t until an altercation with an angry lady at the dog beach that Sevilla’s friend, Mary Bruce, witnesses the change. This disrupts their friendship, and soon Sevilla’s secret is out at school. Sevilla and her family spend most of their time in Leavenworth, Washington, although they live part-time in Vancouver (this strand seems extraneous to the story and the descriptions of Vancouver geography and history are both obsessive and tedious). In this small town, Sevilla and her friends live happy, comfortable lives. But Sevilla has a nemesis - the mean Librarian. And when Sevilla and her friends meet a raggle-taggle group of kids who live in the woods, they hear a surprising story which suggests that the Librarian is more than just mean. These feral children are convinced that she is witch who is trying to kidnap them, using gingerbread as a lure. So Sevilla tries to outfox the witch, understand her own magic and perfect riding around on the back of her favourite dog while in her tiny state.
The most serious problem with this audiobook, which runs approximately six hours, is that it takes more than an hour to get going. The first few chapters are superfluous to the plot -- meandering and confusing for the listener. There is no proper introduction to the characters or setting or any clue what the main story arc will be, and the listener enters the story utterly lost. Unconventional openings can add interest, and a dramatic incident can kick-start a book, but, in this case, the writing is confused and clunky. While the plotting and pacing improve steadily as the story progresses, this project would have benefited greatly from the expertise of a good editor. There are almost entire chapters which could have been cut in order to find and emphasize the real story. The chapters, themselves, are also too long, usually around half an hour each. There is a fair amount of over-editorializing in the book, explaining things in an obvious manner and providing a great deal of information, background or otherwise, which is not needed.
Recommended with reservations.
Kris Rothstein is a children’s book agent and reviewer in Vancouver, BC.
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