Score: 75/100 (7.5 out of 10)
This has to be one of the strangest books we've ever read. However, to its credit, it does take a creative, imaginative, and fun approach to its mode of storytelling.
But... where do we begin? First of all, all of the characters in this book are actually animal/pet rescues that the author has been involved in saving. These range from birds like Fritzi, dogs like Sophie, squirrels like Treedom, cats like Po, and goats like Mr. Beard.
Apparently, from what we gather, they're all given roles in a theatrical/play retelling of The Legend of Sleep Hollow (the classic story featuring Ichibald Crane and the headless horseman). Confusing the matter, the animals keep talking about another play they've apparently tried to reenact called Finding Bigfoot, which they apparently give up on a quarter of the way through.
There's a tremendous amount of confusion on our end concerning who is who and what each animal/character is supposed to be saying or trying to accomplish. For example, one of the characters happens to be a dog named Bruce Springsteen. However, the character apparently wants to play an in-play character named Brom Bones. Brom Bones features rather prominently and pops up throughout the story. But here's the thing... Bruce Springsteen is a famous singer. So, we thought that the singer was in this book for some reason and wanted a role in the play. Characters aren't really properly introduced. Yes, you get a picture, name, and role of what character the character is supposed to be playing, but that—believe it or not—only seems to add to the confusion.
Here's the thing: we don't know these animals as well as the author does. The author clearly knows each and every one by name, remembering them by heart. We don't have that benefit as readers. This is similar to whenever Domenic Melillo tries to refer to his family and his family history in his books. We don't know his family as well as he does. We didn't live with them, talk to them, or hang out with them. Similarly, in this book, we don't know the animals like the author does. This is our first time ever seeing or hearing about them, and we simply can't be expected to remember each and every one by name.
For example, the animal characters are constantly referred to by their name in tags. However, we don't know what kind of animal they are most of the time without having to refer to a picture before or after the chapter.
A much more effective thing would have been to write this story like a proper story—in prose rather than in script form. That way, the author could've used descriptions and adjectives in their tags.
For example, to paraphrase, instead of:
Fritzi: “I'll be Ichabold”
We could've gotten:
“I'll be Ichabold,” said Fritzi, the bird, the leader of the band.
Imagine if we just listed random names of people we knew and expected you to follow all of their dialogue: Tenille, Samson, Greg, Mallory, Vanessa, Hillary, Thomas.
A lot of the appeal of this story comes from the animals themselves, who are prominently featured in adorable photos, often action-shots of them playing and having a good time. For a pet and/or animal-lover, this book might be right up your alley. Another cute thing about this book is the banter between the animals. For example, when Fritzi says he wants to be Ichabold, the other animals try to nicely tell him that he's too short and fat, so doesn't fit the role. Instead of saying he's “fat” they instead tell him that he's “stout.”
This is actually quite cute and humorous.
This book has potential to be good or even great, but it need someone to work with the author to make it into a coherent narrative. It needs to stop skipping from topic to topic and character to character. It needs focus. It need cohesion.
What do we mean by cohesion? Well, the scenes need to mesh and work together. The transitions need to be smooth. So often in this book, it was like we were reading 20 different stories about 50 different animals, and we kinda were.
Now, we get it. We've worked at pet stores. We've taken care of animals, pets, and even rambunctious kids. They all have personalities. They all have needs. They all do their own special, unique things. They all act in their own special, unique ways. The thing is, it is all supposed to come together in a coherent narrative.
Speaking of a coherent narrative, this book also needs some minor formatting fixes to make it readable. For example, every single line of dialogue is single-spaced and mashed right up into the line of dialogue above it. The only way to tell that a new line of dialogue has started is that the character's name is in ALL-CAPS.
With some work, this book could be something fantastic.
Check it out on Amazon!