I’m torn about this novella aimed at 7-13 year olds. On the plus side, the author writes with a warm heart and clearly loves children. She is eager to help and encourage them, both to begin and persevere in the life of faith.
The story involves children who join together to help others, learning about the power of prayer along the way — both excellent lessons for children.
Despite these advantages, I felt that an air of unreality overshadowed the story. I think there are several reasons for this.
Firstly, most of the children’s good intentions and plans come off too easily. The story does deal with difficulties and indeed tragedy, but these were mostly created before it actually begins, like painted scenery on a stage. Once the curtain rises, there is an almost unbroken upward trend, which doesn’t feel life-like.
Secondly, the dialogue — at least 50 per cent of the book — is unrealistic, be the speakers children or adults. I think young readers will sense this, even if they can’t analyse it.
The dialogue is good in terms of giving readers the information the author wants to relate at that point in the story. It’s not so good for building up a picture of the speakers’ characters. As realistic conversation, I’m afraid one soon gives up on it altogether. It’s simply not how people talk.
Thirdly, I think it is ambitious to include so many children (eight central characters, although one is a baby) in such a short book. There’s so little room to let their individual characters come through that, inevitably, they all seem rather similar.
Readers may think, surely a warm heart and noble aims are more important than these literary matters? As marks of godliness, they are. But are they sufficient for creating a plausible and enjoyable story? I’m afraid the honest answer is they’re not.