The Incredible Journey
Sheila Burnford (Juvenile Fiction)
How far would you travel and what would you be willing to endure just to be home again? Three animals—a Siamese cat, a bull terrier, and a Labrador retriever—travel nearly 300 miles across the Canadian wilderness and battle fatigue, hunger, wild animals, cold, and sickness in order to be reunited with their beloved family again.
Burnford gives us a story of loyalty, inclusivity, diversity, and empathy. This is not a warm and fuzzy tale of three pets and their charming and delightful antics throughout the frontiers of Canada. This is a harsh and brutally honest story of survival, death, pain, and endurance. There is plenty of bone crunching and flesh tearing to remind young readers that this isn’t just another cutesy animal story, but this should not deter them in the slightest from reading this book. The Incredible Journey is an exquisite story of love and friendship. Each animal must depend on one another for survival while proving their own unique worth at pivotal parts of the story.
This is one of those rare books that is so captivating, you almost forget (and really don’t miss) the fact that a majority of the story lacks dialogue. Through Burnford’s adept and masterful storytelling, we understand the language “spoken” between the three companions through their actions, reactions, hisses, and howls. A flick of the tail or drawing down of the ears convey more emotion and drama under Burnford’s nuanced pen than pages and pages of dialogue ever could. Serving as a brilliant complement to Burnford’s words are the beautiful and rich illustrations by Carl Burger. The two combined give readers an emotional, exhilarating, unforgettable, and one incredible journey.
* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com
Patrick Somerville (Adult Fiction)
It’s 1997. Matt and Marissa Bishop are expecting their first child. In her eighth month of pregnancy, Marissa suddenly asks Matt to find her something. Not a certain brand of pickles or obscure flavor of ice cream, but a cradle. Her cradle. The one that she used when she was a baby and that was stolen from her home many years ago. Flash forward ten years and Renee Owen, a former children’s author, is preparing to send her son off to serve in the military in Iraq. She counts down the days to his departure as she counts the white notecards on her bulletin board—cards that represent a book of poetry that longs for completion. Both Matt and Renee are on a path where they will discover that secrets are powerful things and have the ability to either rip a family apart or make the shared fabric even stronger.
I’ve found that when books have two central characters with alternating story lines, there is always one that stands apart and tends to be more interesting and compelling. The Cradle is no exception. We follow the individual stories of Matt and Renee and from early on, Matt’s story is definitively the deeper and more developed of the two (out of fourteen chapters in the book, Matt is featured in ten). Renee’s inclusion in the book seemed superfluous and the parts featuring her were a needless drag on the story’s pace. Deciding to give Renee equal billing (or close to it) in this story was unfortunate. Her inclusion didn’t add much to the story line and her contribution was more of a weak supporting character rather than a central, standalone figure.
The Cradle is clearly Matt’s story and the struggles he faces when dealing with his past while trying to understand his future. Throughout the book, Matt is all about what matters. Family matters. Things matter. His quest for his wife’s childhood heirloom not only puts him in direct contact with several strange and unforgettable people, but it also allows him the opportunity to begin realizing what a family is and what having a family really means. And in the end, to Matt, those are the things that matter most.
* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com