Reader’s Favorite 2016 International Book Award, Silver Medal in the Children – Adventure category.
The premise of this middle grade novel was intriguing. Their adventurous Aunt Jill sends Sophie and Scottie a picture frame. Like the one in the Narnian Chronicles, The Dawn Treader, this one transports them away from home but instead of going to a magical land, they go to Mexico to solve the mystery of the missing Monarch butterflies.
The two girls, twin Sophie and Scottie are a bit clichéd although it is nice to see female heroines. They demonstrated clever problem solving.
The author created some interesting characters. The villain was cool as was his strategy for capturing the butterflies. The girls were determined and clever. At one point they each develop special powers that were useful and humorous. The girls didn’t spend any time gushing over boys or getting into drama. The gecko monkeys were funny and clever. The book had an upbeat tone throughout.
The missing Monarch butterflies was an intriguing topic to choose. The message about protecting our environment, being kind to animals, being dependable, and being responsible for your choices are important ones. Perhaps an appendix about the real problems Monarchs are facing would have benefited the readers.
I do think, however, that this book would have benefited from more edits. A number of small problems can accumulate into one large one – pacing.
A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.
How another edit could have improved this book:
I am going to go into detail in the hope that I can help writers edit these common problems out of their work. These problems are not unusual. The lengthy detail is here to make it clear and helpful to writers. Not all of these problems occurred every time, just enough to make a reader conscious of the text and a little distracted.
The dialogue was unnatural at times. This makes the reading slow down. Here is an example.
“I can feel something very strange in your pack. I know that Diego was just in it to get us some snacks, but let’s open it and see what this object is.”
This site can explain it in more detail. https://marshahubler.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/todays-writers-tip-stilted-or-unnatural-dialogue/
The dialogue tags were sometimes overly explicit or odd and detracted from the reading. For example:
“Youallmustescapenow!” It was Chewy who was commanding them to climb up the ladder.
“Dr. Drake! Dr. Drake!” Both girls were chanting in a loud whisper as his hotel room door opened.
… Jinx said as if he were cheering.
Here’s a good site on that subject. http://theeditorsblog.net/2013/12/04/another-take-on-dialogue-tags/
When something dramatic happened, the prose sometimes dragged. For example:
As the sergeant started yelling at the guards to stay at their assigned post while he unlocked the smaller iron gate to get out of the cave, everyone could hear an ear-deafening roaring sound.
You’ll notice that the writer often used the passive voice. That is a pace killer.
Meanwhile, Scottie was looking up at the top of the iron doors with the two sides close together.
She used began to or started instead of getting to the point.
“Ah, ha!” Diego shouted to himself and quickly began to get out of the harness.
Suddenly, Diego turned and began to sprint as fast as he could on the trail.
“Quickly removed the harness” and “sprinted” would have kept the energy high.
Writers must show and not tell.
Sophie began to walk on the weedy trail, she felt as if this wasn’t the right way, but decided to give it a try. Heck, Sophie wasn’t even sure what to look for on the trail anyway. She stopped and unrolled Maptrixter to study it. She could see the trail that she was walking on, but nothing else was showing up on the map. After walking a few more yards, Sophie decided to turn around and head back to camp. I can’t believe I’m doing this, she thought. I’m usually the one to stay back and watch everyone else explore or try new things first. As she turned around, Sophie heard a swooping noise and started to duck out of the way when, all of a sudden, she felt something on her shoulder.
As well there are unnecessary details about chores and sheep which do nothing to further the plot. There’s too much set up. I didn’t feel that the story started until almost the middle of the book. Focus on the mystery and build the suspense.
Here’s a great site that addresses a lot of these pacing problems. http://hollylisle.com/pacing-dialogue-and-action-scenes-your-story-at-your-speed/
There is much that is good in this book. It’s too bad it wasn’t given over to a meticulous editor for another look before publishing. It would have been even better.