3 out of 4 stars
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One of the worst things that can happen on a vacation is to have an abundance of plans that get ruined by bad weather. Rainstorms can sure put a damper on one’s hopes for adventure. In The Invisible Realm, Hattie and Dacey feel the typical depression that can settle in when this happens. New stepsisters seven-year-old Dacey and eleven-year-old Hattie are already unhappy enough about a vacation sharing a cottage with their new family members. In addition to the poor weather, Hattie’s sour mood is only enhanced when her dad and stepmom tell her she needs to babysit. With nothing better to do, Hattie convinces Dacey to explore the attic of the very old cottage the rain has them trapped in. To the astonishment and great delight of the two girls, they discover a map that appears to lead from the cellar to some nearby caves. Following what they hope will turn out to be a treasure map, the two young ladies stumble into a lush realm of fairytale creatures, a challenging maze, and riddles to be solved. The girls sought an adventure, and they certainly found one.
Evelyn Dunbar Webb’s introduction to A-Maze-ing Mystery Adventures is whimsical with a dash each of The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and A Series of Unfortunate Events. Hattie and Dacey encounter a host of fairytale creatures who assist them in their adventure but mostly empower the girls to trust their instincts, work together, and use their knowledge to move forward through the land. The characters are an odd cast, including a fairy godmother, talking bears, a young dragon, and a snazzy cat. They each have a distinct personality and individual peculiarities which make them fun characters for children to read about.
There are two things, in particular, I like about The Invisible Realm aside from its fun, whimsical nature. The relationship between Hattie and Dacey as stepsisters of only a few weeks is quite strained. However, the trials and challenges of their no-longer rainy-day adventure help them to bond. The two develop a true appreciation for each other, and they learn to communicate openly and honestly. It is an excellent example of how siblings should treat one another.
The second thing I really like is that Webb introduces her young readers to an assortment of new things, such as the Underground Railroad, the Lincoln Tunnel, and the War of 1812. Hopefully, the passing mention of these and other places and events will spark a curiosity in readers so they will learn something about history as a result of this fictional adventure. Dacey is quite the reader, and I attribute her knowledge of landmarks and history to her love of books.
Overall, the story is great for children between the ages of eleven and fourteen who like adventures involving fairytale creatures. However, there are a few things I believe can be improved by Webb to make the book more appealing to her young audience. There are a few colored drawings included throughout the book of the girls and some of the characters. They are far from professional and don’t enhance the quality of the book at all. The author would benefit from removing these pictures and leaving only the cover art and the small road signs with colorful birds that mark each new chapter.
One of the drawings I really don’t care for depicts the villain of the story. Actually, this particular drawing is placed in the book twice for no apparent reason. It seems that every fairytale must harbor an evil creature, and The Invisible Realm is no exception. However, the interactions between the stepsisters and this creature come off as anti-climactic. I was particularly underwhelmed by the character himself and the way Dacey and Hattie engaged with him. As a result of the almost forced inclusion of a villain, the poorly done illustrations, and a slow pace that plagues the book, I am removing one star and granting The Invisible Realm 3 out of 4 stars. I do believe the story is worthy of the three stars for its interesting cast of characters, adventurous quality, and valuable lessons about how to treat family.
The Invisible Realm
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