Review: Catch a Robber

Skitter always was kind to Pibbin – talking with him, giving him beetle cookies, taking care of him after a bird pecked him. When – in an apparent case of mistaken identity – the rabbits held Skitter captive as a thief, and demanded the real thief and the stolen necklace before they would let her go – well, what was Pibbin to do?

The only thing a friend could. Catch a robber. Even, even if it takes him out of Friendship Bog and into Shadow Swamp.

Catch a Robber – the fourth Tale of Friendship Bog – is written by Gloria Repp. The book is 116 pages, and very nicely laid-out – with well-drawn illustrations, wide spacing, and a fairly large font. It’s sold for “Ages 8 and up”, and I think it’s ideal for children who are ready to stretch beyond picture books but for whom a full-length novel is still too daunting.

As in Trapped, the writing style is crisp, with few long sentences and probably no complicated ones. But the writing is skilled, and there are some lovely images and expressions. “Peeper-voices chimed like tiny bells in the bushes”; one passage had a snake that curled downward “like a smooth, shining ribbon,” and another that “arranged himself into a black coil and gazed at the rabbits with bright, hungry eyes.”

The story is good and the characters are excellent. Nisk, Keena, the shrews, the Big Red, Mee – all riveting, in their own way. (The bit with Mee was marvelous, building tension and intrigue through a fascinating character.) Gloria Repp excels with characters who are – how can I put this? – not quite normal. Nisk is good, I don’t doubt, and likeable as a character, but his mind is somewhere off the beaten the track.

It’s a little funny, on reflection, that among the main antagonists of this children’s book are rabbits. (Note that I don’t say villains; they’re not quite that.) But in the book itself, it completely works. I didn’t question it for a second, wasn’t drawn out of the story at all. In large part this is because Gloria Repp succeeds in framing the world as it is for her characters. To a little frog like Pibbin, rabbits are large and noisy and strong.

A word on the illustrations (done by Michael Swaim, I should note): They really are well-done, a very pleasant halfway point between a cartoon and realism. They are also appealing to children; I know because when I showed one of the Friendship Bog books to my youngest sister (four last month), she turned the pages, looking at the illustrations, and finally asked, “How do you read this thing?”

Catch a Robber is a superb children’s book – a good story with writing and characters adults can appreciate along with children. It’s also entirely wholesome, and I would recommend it to parents and teachers without reservation.

Catch a Robber is available on Amazon; to learn more about Gloria Repp and her work, visit her site.

I received a review copy of this book.

Review: Trapped

A blue star is a lovely thing. So lovely, in fact, that Pibbin would, for the cause of getting one, hop into a dark tunnel, unsure if he would meet a nice chipmunk or a hungry snake.

Until he stumbled into a net, and the shouting started. After that, it really was time to go home.

Trapped is the third book in the Tales of Friendship Bog, written by Gloria Repp and illustrated by Michael Swaim. It’s marked for children six and older. 109 pages, with a large font and generous spacing, and illustrations scattered throughout, Trapped is a book well-designed for children.

The plot is fairly simple, but engaging. The central conflict of the story – the disappearance of a baby squirrel, one character’s little brother – is quite enough to keep readers invested until the end. The characters are sympathetic; a few – such as Cheeco, Zip, and Nisk – you wonder about, but it’s the sort of wondering that makes them intriguing. And I have to say I found the peepers charming.

Trapped has a brief, forthright writing style, in keeping with the age both of its protagonists and its primary audience. But the images of the book, however brief, are still evocative, and I enjoyed them – the wind “stirring through everything on the ground”, a tunnel slanting “up again, as if it had remembered where it was going”, Pibbin fearing “a long, thin weasel creeping after him, with its quick paws and teeth.”

And then one of my favorites: “Moonlight still gleamed at the end of the tunnel, and the moss on the stump smelled wonderful, as if beetles lived in it.” Part of the fun of this one is that it takes you into the viewpoint of this little frog; obviously anthropomorphized frogs are fundamentally human in their viewpoint, but it’s fun to see a froggish touch, too.

Which brings me to another point: This story is intended for children, who will no doubt enjoy it more than adults would. But there is much in it that appeals to adults, and sometimes to adults even more than children. I think the befuddled and befuddling Nisk is at least as enjoyable to adults as to children, and the humor of Ma Chipmunk’s devastating emotional support has an adult sensibility.

Trapped is an excellent children’s story – heartfelt and engaging, with a charming style and likable characters. Highly recommended.

Trapped is available on Amazon; to learn more about Gloria Repp and her work, visit her site.

I received a review copy of this book.