Inspired by her family, Delores Ray’s children’s book, a collection of 24 fiction and nonfiction short stories, was written for the author’s niece and granddaughter.
Ray’s collection is an uneven grab-bag—a mix of effective and less engaging work. The first story seems like a sweet introduction to the characters: a mother and daughter and her grandparents. It reads like the entries from a child’s diary about special days spent on her grandparents’ farm. There are descriptions of baking cookies, gathering eggs and swimming in a creek on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, the characters vanish and the ambience shifts abruptly in the next story—a fantasy about a little girl on Christmas Eve who watches as baked potatoes, lollipops, and tree ornaments start wildly dancing.
The three most successful stories are about a girl who spends Halloween night in a spooky, haunted mansion, another about a family of poor mice who live in a church, and a white fawn. They have a solid structure, interesting characters, rising and falling action, a climax, and a satisfying ending. And young readers will love the scenes in some stories in which the narrator shrinks in size and goes riding on frogs and grasshoppers, and meets beautiful fairies in sparkly settings.
Other stories, though, lack structure, and instead read like solitary scenes taken out of a larger book.
What undoubtedly makes the book special to the author’s family—the names and personal references—can be confusing to readers who are not privy to the inside stories. A short introduction by the author would be helpful, as well as organizing the stories into nonfiction and fiction categories. As is, the collection hops from the real world to fantasy, with different viewpoints. The effect is jarring and sometimes puzzling. In addition, non-religious readers should be aware that there are many references to God.
There’s some sparkle here, but the collection requires careful editing and revision to appeal to a wide audience.
Also available as an ebook.