Title: Juniper Berry
Blurb: Young Juniper Berry knows her mother and father aren't the same paople they used to be. Of course, they're no longer struggling actors - they're now the most famous movie stars in the world. But it's more than that. She can't shake the feeling that something isn't quite right with them. And one rainy night, in the shadowy and sinister woods behind their mansion, she discovers she's right. Now it's up to Juniper to overcome her own demons in order to save the ones who couldn't.___________________________________________________________
This review may contain spoilers. To view them you need to highlight the blank parts between the brackets [like this].
Let me start with the following fact: this is not your typical childrens book. I don't even know if it does any good to let children read this book before the end of primary school. The writing is adapted for this age - it's simple and yet doesn't slow the pace of the book, but the story is pretty disturbing. It's not only the supernatural theme of some guy sucking souls, it's also a story of neglect, mistreatment and a very very lonely child. Combined these aspects make a pretty scary theme for a childrens book.
However there are some parts of this book that got my this-book-fits-for-children's-crisis-radar going. We know that most children's book have the purpose of teaching the kids something or even helping them to process certain situation they were in or to understand experiences they can't handle. There are a few things that benefit these purposes:
- We have a girl in a certain crisis, but even if she's facing some pretty crazy stuff she stays strong and helps herself, but isn't too proud to accept help from others - she even wants it. She is not left alone to deal with it.
- We have a strong, determined main character, which makes us want to identify with her and her story - this brings us closer to actually dealing with anything that might be in any way comparable to what she's going through.
- She is going through some wavering during the plot which is supposed to show us that mistakes are allowed but it's worth going through with your plans until the end because you will get what you deserve.
- [There is a happy ending... families reunited, souls back in bodies etc. etc. and I don't think I have to explain why this helps children in a crisis.]
Forgive me for this, I work in a nursery school and with metally unstable children, I can't help this popping into my mind while reading a children's book.
Another thing not only children will love about this book is the artwork. I mean, look at the cover. There are some beautifully drawn pictures in this book which are of course adapted to the story and they are a big help to create the mood the book is currently trying to express - it works with both the gloomy and happy moods.
But leaving the 'children'-aspect aside, I actually liked this book. The writing is good, the story is good, the pacing could be a bit faster at the beginning and a bit slower at the end but all in all, this is fun to read (if you like it slightly macabre and a little wicked). There is just one thing: it was a really big Coraline rip-off.
The main character is similar in age and behaviour, they even both like to explore. Wybie, while not being in the book but in the movie 'Coraline', had some similarities in character and looks with Giles. In both books there was a helping pet (once a cat and once a dog called 'Kitty'...). We have a soul-sucking creature and parents in danger in both books and so on. There are a few more (some of them not all that obvious) but I don't want to put this review full of spoilers for 'Coraline' and 'Juniper Berry'... and how funny that both books are named after their protagonist, huh?
Well, anyway, because of all these similarities I was bound to compare the books to each other and I have to say that 'Coraline' was destined to win. It's a Neil Gaiman Original and probably one of my most favourite books of all time. So perhaps this book didn't get the rating it deserved because I was a tiny little bit biased.