3 out of 4 stars
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"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." –Les Brown
After bankrupting the family business, young Rockford T. Honeypot became a failure in his father's eyes. With no other choice but to set out on his own, he aims for a lofty dream: to claim an unshelled diamond "that can change the entire forest with its glow." His journey isn't comfortable; he's terrified of germs and haunted by his fears of failing again. He will have to learn to see that "beauty is everywhere. Sometimes [he'll] just need to look from a different angle." With his hopes high, Rockford will do his best to emulate his childhood hero Captain James T. and "be bold and blossom."
The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot, by Josh Gottsegen, is a middle-grade adventure novel. Most stories in this genre center around an 8-to-12-year-old protagonist who faces an age-appropriate challenge that forces them to step slightly out of their comfort zone to achieve growth by the end of the novel. This adventure, however, spans the entire rags-to-riches story of the now-elderly Rockford as he tells his tale to his young great-grandson at the Green-Hut Market 39 in front of an ever-growing crowd of animals.
Creativity knows no bounds within this whimsical story. From the woodland version of Captain James T. Kirk to the ever-popular forest version of social media called Whisker, Gottsegen creates a vivid parallel word in Tropland. Catchy sayings like "cheers to both ears," and encouraging messages provide a fun and often nutty backdrop for the young Rocky T. as he lives his life and pursues his dreams. I particularly enjoyed the variety of furry friends throughout the novel and loved the inventive ways that the human world was replicated in a woodland environment. It also features delightful hand-drawn sketches at the start of each chapter. I loved the black and white images of Rockford, his family, and scenes from his adventure.
The story is sprinkled with insightful tidbits and little life-lessons presented in simple language and short recaps of the main events in Rockford's life. The book follows two timelines: one in the present that follows the events at the Green-Hut Market, and one in the past that reveals where Rockford started and how he became the famous chipmunk he is today. Rockford has been missing from the public eye for about eight years, and the forest critters are more than eager to learn his origin story.
The only thing that I didn't like about this book was the abrupt switch from childlike adventures of learning to cook from a renowned chef and martial arts training in the mountains to Rockford's first time getting drunk and picking up women at a bar. The book further jumps into the more adult-like concepts of marriage, the difficulties of raising children, starting a business, fighting off solicitors and lawsuits, and even stocks and legal paperwork. The fermented crabapples seemed a little inappropriate for the target age group. The latter topics may be of value to introduce kids to courtship and running a business, but I'm not certain they will hold a young reader's attention.
The book is overall well-edited, but I found more than ten errors throughout its 236 pages. The editing errors and the age-inappropriate content reduce my rating to a 3 out of 4. I recommend that parents take the subject matter into consideration before allowing a young reader to pick up the book, but anyone 13-years-old and up will find an engaging story. There is no swearing, but there is a bit of mild kissing and romance in Rockford's adult life. The finale is bittersweet and satisfying with an ending that comes full-circle.
The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot
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