Score: 84/100 (8.4 out of 10)
Queen Vernita Visits the Land of Little Rain is an imaginative little story that's got a bunch going for it and a whole lot going on. The book is a multicultural, multilingual hodgepodge that niche readers will be able to derive enjoyment and even insight from.
Let's first talk about the art because it's the first thing you'll notice about this book. You can tell that the authors/artists poured their hearts and souls into the art. There are times when it's incredible. Our personal favorite piece of art is on page 16, showcasing people riding a camel and encountering an ostrich. Yes, the camel's head might be a little disproportionate and the faces of the people might seem unclear or strange, but that might just be the style.
The art is also very colorful. Now, that's to it's benefit and also to its detriment. For one, very colorful art can be inviting and exciting. However, the amount of color in this book is often downright overwhelming and distracting. It's like looking at a “Where's Waldo” picture. The Day of the Dead celebration picture is probably the best example of that. It's so colorful and so bright and so much seems to be going on all at once. With that said, it's probably the second or third best picture in the book after the aforementioned camel/ostrich one and the one that takes place in the wilderness in September.
Heck, who are we kidding? There is a LOT of beautiful art in this book. It really depends on your taste. There's a magnificent sundown scene featuring owls and bright, colorful cacti. There's a house on page five that reminded one of us of a motel in Wendover. The building on page ten is magnificently detailed (seriously), and the donkeys are done well too.
We have to give credit where credit is due. These authors/illustrators probably tried their best and darnedest to create this art. It really shows. And we can't fault them for things like the “hairlines” that form in some of the images. This is clearly the printer's fault. We've dealt with that problem ourselves. Amazon ruins your images with these hairline cracks sometimes.
The actual problem with this book might just lie with it being a children's book. It is very, very wordy and intricate, especially for a children's book. It was actually a bit hard for us to follow, and we're experienced readers, not to mention adults. This book really gets “into the weeds” so to speak, introducing you to a lot of different bits of information, needed or otherwise. And needed is a very subjective term. That starts with the fact that it doesn't feel like there's really a point to the book or the characters. There's no journey or goal in other words. Things just happen. The characters just go places. They experience changes in the season.
You're also introduced to bits of information that add to the confusion like Chango's name meaning “monkey” in Spanish. Ok, so is Chango a monkey? Is he like Boots in Dora the Explorer, a monkey sidekick? No. Chango is a dude. He's some guy. Why is he called “Chango” then? Is that explained? Does he like to climb trees and eat bananas?
Also, there's no set up for who Queen Vernita is and what her deal is. She just is. You're supposed to be 100% interested in her immediately without any introductions. That was a bit troublesome. The hardest part of this whole book is the first page. You really have to get past that first page. You're initially left wondering: Who is Queen Vernita? Is she an actual royal queen who runs a kingdom? Is she just someone whose first name is “Queen” like Queen Latifa or Queenie the cow from that one book we forget the name of? If she's a royal queen, then why is she wasting so much time and her kingdom's travel budget wandering around and fraternizing when she should be running her kingdom? Maybe there should be some backstory about why Queen Vernita travels so much. Maybe she's serving some sort of diplomatic mission or acting as an ambassador. Maybe that was covered in one of the other dozens+ Queen Vernita books, but it's not clear in this one.
Anyway, we don't want the author(s)/artist(s) to take these criticisms personally or to think we don't like their work. We greatly admire their work. We just see areas in which these books could be improved in the future. It helps to have an outside perspective like beta readers (or us) to say that something doesn't quite look right or that it's too wordy or convoluted or that we're confused as readers who are new to the series and have no idea what happened to the characters before this.
This book and this series in general does have heart and some impressive art. You can check it out on Amazon!