When I read Juniper Berry a couple of years ago, I was excited about what future stories M.P. Kozlowsky would give us. The Dyerville Tales is just as unique and engrossing as Juniper Berry was while being incredibly different.
I read ARC received from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
Vince Elgin is an orphan, having lost his mother and his father in a fire when he was young, but beyond that, his life hasn't been much of a fairy tale. With only a senile grandfather he barely knows to call family, Vince was remanded to a group home, where he spun fantastical stories, dreaming of the possibility that his father, whose body was never found, might one day return for him. But it's been a long time since the fire, a long time since Vince has told himself a story worth believing in.
That's when a letter arrives, telling Vince his grandfather has passed away. Vince cannot explain it, but he's convinced that if his father is somehow still alive, he'll find him at the funeral. He strikes out for his grandfather's small hometown of Dyerville carrying only one thing with him: his grandfather's journal. The journal tells a story that could not possibly be true, a story of his grandfather's young life involving witches, giants, magical books, and evil spirits. But as Vince reads on and gets closer to Dyerville, fact and fiction begin to intertwine, and Vince finds that his very real adventure may have more in common with his grandfather's than he ever could have known.
Vince uses stories to keep the hope inside of him alive. Hope for the future. His. I love this so much. It made me want to scoop him up out of the book and adopt him. Readers in the target audience will have a different reaction of course. They will be able to identify with him. Because this is how so many of us cope with the day to day of our lives, tragic or not. Vince has a lot of tragic to cope with and yet he still believes in good and that there is hope in the future. Even when he tells himself he is being silly and tries to turn cynical, he can't. And I just love that. I love that his life his harsh and he says that, but refuses to believe that's all it can be. He is a hero I was willing to go along with. Vince's story is told alongside that of his grandfather's (also named Vince). The grandfather died recently and Vince is left with a book of tales about his life as a young man. As Vince travels to his grandfather's funeral, he reads the stories. They are fantastic and unbelievable, but Vince is convinced they hold truth. They also hold interesting parallels to Vince's own life.
Once Vince decides to leave the orphanage against the head's wishes to attend the funeral and he starts reading the book, the story moves quickly. It was a little slow before that, but I think many children will be caught at the beginning with the tale of how Vince's parents died. The tale is not a pretty one. I liked this about the book actually. Just as in Juniper Berry, Kozlowsky deals with the grim darkness of reality, but does in a way children can appreciate and respond to. There were some things about the plot that didn't entirely make sense to me and many mysteries left unexplained. But such is life. I enjoyed the parts with Vince far more than the fantastical tales of his grandfather though. I'm interested to see how others respond to this.
This is a great story and I'm eager to share it with the kids I know. It is one I can see appealing to many of them.
I read an e-galley made available by the publisher, Walden Pond Press, via Edelweiss. The Dyerville Tales goes on sale April 22nd.