3 out of 4 stars
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Mother Goose is a British fictional character who purportedly wrote a series of children’s tales, and nursery rhymes in the 17th century. The Enchantment of Jack Horner by Christopher R. Doyle is a book which tells the story of Jack Horner, a boy whose late grandmother was Mother Goose. When Mother Goose’s rhymes are spoken aloud by Jack, magical things happen to the people around him. When he is six, his mother asks him to watch over his baby brother who was being extremely fussy that day. Using his magical powers, Jack sends his baby brother’s cradle into a tree so that the blackbirds could sing him to sleep. Forgetting about his brother, Jack goes off to play and absentmindedly begins to sing a particular nursery rhyme, ‘Rockabye Baby’. As most of us know, that rhyme ends in a disastrous way. True to the rhyme, his baby brother’s cradle falls from the tree and little Tommy dies. Distraught, Jack vows never to sing his magical rhymes again.
Time passes and Jack’s mother is expecting another baby. Jack also meets a little girl, Polly, who knows all of Mother Goose’s rhymes, including the one about herself. Jack soon learns that she and her brother have a difficult life at home. He realizes that his magic could help a lot of people like Polly, and he knows he must make a decision to start using magic again. Moreover, terrifying family secrets are revealed to Jack, and he realizes Polly and her family are more closely linked to him than he expected.
This book brought up wonderful memories of sitting on my grandpa’s knee while he read a giant book of Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes and stories to me. The premise of Doyle’s story is unique, but the rhymes remained the same. I really appreciated how he connected these old rhymes into a new, magical tale for children.
The story captivated me from the first page and continued on a rollercoaster of twists and turns that evoked a series of emotions including horror, sadness, anger, excitement, and happiness. I could not wait to reach the end. The storyline became deeper as it neared the conclusion. It dived into the past and connected the past and present. A few things also alluded to spirituality, the impermanence of death, and reincarnation.
Doyle’s excellent characterization was one of the best features of his book. Each character had distinct attributes which either made them hated or liked. For example, the villain’s character was extremely well written. She was mysterious enough not to be suspected in the very beginning, but later on, she was both mean and kind which hid her true nature. Eventually, her actions became gruesome and life-threatening. Her horrible past was also revealed. My hate for her while reading the story reached a new level, but the depth at which her character was written was admirable. On the contrary, Jack’s mother was the epitome of angelic motherhood. Although she gave him lots of chores to do during her second pregnancy, she always thanked him. Moreover, she never blamed Jack for accidentally killing his brother. She understood that his magic was a gift and not a curse. I really liked her character.
Another great thing about this book was that it contained several lessons for children. Numerous times Jack’s helpful nature was described, such as his readiness to complete chores and take care of his pregnant mother while his dad was away. His reverence for life was another lesson. This was illustrated when he used magic to resurrect a baby mouse which had died in a mousetrap. His courage to stand up for himself in the face of bullies was another meaningful lesson.
If not for a few errors, I would have given this book a full rating. 3 out of 4 stars is the rating I am awarding it. Children aged 9 and above will enjoy this book. It is also a great story to read to children at bedtime. I think parents will enjoy it just as much as their little ones.
The Enchantment of Jack Horner
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