by J. D. Holiday
Book Garden Publishing
Back Cover: Eddie would love to have a puppy to play with him. A puppy would pull on a rope, catch a ball and lick your face. But his Uncle brings Eddie an older dog named after a famous spy. What can you do with an old dog? It probably couldn’t learn new tricks, the only thing this dog did was stare. It’s what they find to do together that makes them the best of friends!
First Sentence: Eddie Caldweld was on the floor leaning on his elbows watching TV.
Eddie, a boy age nine or ten, receives a dog from his Uncle. Eddie did not want a dog, he wants a puppy believing only a puppy can tug on a rope, fetch a ball, or lick his face. So he ignores the dog, named Sidney. Eddie has a few more problems with Sidney, who lays down near him. Eddie thinks Sidney is too big, too old to learn new tricks, unfriendly, and didn’t like to play. All of this from a moment on the floor, while watching television. Sidney could think the same things of Eddie, and be closer to the truth.
Walking Sidney becomes Eddie’s responsibility. He notices the dog was only half his height yet twice as strong. If Sidney did not want to move, he didn’t. Eddie shouted and pulled the leash to no avail. Eddie tugs harder and Sidney shows his teeth. Eddie’s friend Joel was not any more receptive to Sidney.
“Oh, why can’t that dog walk himself? He’s big enough, Eddie! You’ll be late for the bus,” he said crossly, before Dana led him to the corner.
Dana is Eddie’s other friend. She has a cat, but it has gone missing. Dana believes her cat has been stolen by “the cat people” a neighborhood cat shelter. Eddie thinks his new dog is watching everything he does. Sidney was named after a spy and Eddie is beginning to think Sidney might really be one. Can Sidney find Dana’s stolen cat?
Well, sometimes a review can be a difficult thing to write. This is one of those times. After reading the first two pages, I knew this would be a poorly written story. Two pages of dry narration, all tell and no-show. If I had not promised a review for the author’s blog tour, the book would be laid down never to pick up again. There are editing problems, or maybe a lack of editing. Punctuation is missing or incorrect and grammar is, well, look at the second sentence (with the first, for understanding):
Eddie Caldweld was on the floor leaning on his elbows watching TV.
Kids with performing pets were on it.
There were kids and their performing pets on the top of the television set? Sure, we know what the author meant, yet that does not justify sloppy writing. Once or even twice, in a book the size of a short story, is not acceptable to me. Write-edit-rewrite-edit-rewrite . . . until the best possible.
I was very surprised by the illustrations. I have seen this artist’s work before and the pieces were beautiful. The illustrations in The Spy Game are stiff and amateurish looking. A picture of Sidney in the window has his teeth exposed, but closed, and a big tongue somehow sticking out the dog’s mouth. The dog’s eyes look devilish, not canine. When the author is also the illustrator interpretation should not be a problem. So when I read “ . . . leaning on his elbows . . . ,” and then see Eddie laying on one elbow , I wonder if the author is moving too fast to publication.
I cannot recommend The Spy Game to anyone. The writing is poor, the illustrations not up to picture book standard, and the story is difficult to read. Too much tell and little show. Kids will not identify with the characters because they are one -dimensional. The protagonist is not endearing, nor are his friends. The only character I felt anything for was Sidney. The ending is contrived. The dog follows a stray cat into a bush, where the missing cat happens to be, and the dog is credited for having found the missing cat.
Since this review is part of a blog tour, I checked out the other reviews. I found two on the tour schedule (listed on the author’s blog), ending before the stop here, which was not on the schedule. Something is not right. Many review sites refuse to post a “negative” review. Maybe that happened with the other blogs scheduled to review The Spy Game. I do not have the answer. BUT, the two review sites did review this book, both giving it a five out of five-star rating. Interestingly, the first said it would be a better story if told by the dog and then rewrote the story as the last half of her review. The other, well, read for yourself. Book Reviews are the opinion of the one doing the reviewing. How much stock others place in that opinion is up to each individual. In fairness to the author, since I do publish “negative” reviews, the other reviews are linked below.
1. with re-wite: http://gabina49.wordpress.com/page/2/