About the book:
Mu, a ten-year-old orphan, has lived his entire life in the heart of Africa. For as long as he can remember he has served in the household of a great-uncle where he is unloved and ignored. In his drudgery-filled life, Mu has little hope of happiness, and little hope that anything will ever change.
But one day, everything does change. On his way to draw water one morning, Mu is astonished when a chameleon greets him by name and announces that they will embark on a quest together. And what a quest it turns out to be! Mu faces danger and finds unexpected allies as they journey through a fascinating and ever-changing landscape.
A Chameleon, a Boy, and a Quest by J. A. Myrhe (New Growth Press, 2015) blends magical realism with a compelling story. The exciting story line combines an orphan’s journey to find a home with the plight of child soldiers and the dangers of the Ebola virus and, along the way, highlights universal themes of integrity, loyalty, faith, and love. Written by long-time medical missionary J. A. Myrhe, the artful story is laced with subtle gospel themes and handles cross-cultural issues with grace and sensitivity. Kids will encounter good and evil and learn the truth about hope, happiness, and what it means to be human in this page-turning first book in a new series.
The best parts of this book are the setting details when tied in with the character action. Several beautiful phrases conjure setting and draw the reader into visualizing this world, like this sentence on page 12: “Children trickled into the road like pink petals on a slow current.” The overall adventure Mu, Tita, and Botu travel on is interesting with a bit of mystery as to what the full quest is for Mu.
That said, much of this book reads as if it’s for adults rather than children. The perspective is third person, mostly from Mu’s point-of-view, yet it sounds more like an adult telling the story than Mu telling the story. The tone is full of more description than action in many places. This leaves little white space on the pages and slows down the pace. Several sentences at the end of chapters also repeat information already known or review actions occurred, as if to remind readers what they just read, which is likely unnecessary for the intended audience age.
But the themes woven within offer good points of conversation between readers (or parents/teachers and readers) to discuss cultural differences, war/rebellion, trust, friendship, family, survival, care/respect for animals/nature, having the choice between good and evil, and forgiveness.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the Litfuse blogging team in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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