In Dr. Alex Randall’s middle-grade book, a boy goes on a surreal journey to discover how to get rid of overgrown weeds in his garden.
Frustrated, Sandy decides he must find a solution for his weed problem as he struggles to create a garden in which to “grow dinner.” He visits Hermie, the local “fix-it man” who Sandy knows has a weed-free garden. But Hermie uses dangerous methods—a bulldozer and dynamite—to kill his weeds, so he sends the boy to the fair to find a man who can show him how to use weed-killing chemicals.
Instead, Sandy finds a wizard who pulls a cymbal out of a box and points to a “symbol” on it: a hot-air balloon. Tapping it, Sandy finds himself flying in a balloon where he meets a fairy godmother in the clouds who provides him with a suit of armor for protection on the rest of his journey. As Sandy’s adventure continues, he paddles over rapids, battles a weed monster, and meets an old man who advises him: “In your garden, you should cultivate every plant so its special vitality is preserved.”
The book’s two most compelling sections deal with dream interpretation. Sandy attends “Knight School” where class members reflect on their dreams and talk about redirecting fearsome nightmares. In the epilogue, Randall encourages readers to keep a dream journal and discusses images and archetypes, and how children can conquer their nightmares.
But sadly, the story’s structure—that of a meandering dream full of similes and metaphors—drags the book down. Readers will be as frustrated as Sandy with the maddening riddles: “…even nowhere is somewhere. It’s well on the way to Anywhere isn’t it?” In addition, most readers won’t relate to overgrown weeds with Sandy’s intensity and may feel it’s much ado about nothing.
Although readers will undoubtedly enjoy learning about dreams, the book’s structure needs revamping and the conflict reconsidered before it can claim a wide readership.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.