Monday, November 19, 2012

A Tale for Christmas: Zach's Quest

A Tale for Christmas: Zach’s Quest, written by Matt Dragovits and illustrated by Jeffrey Varab, is an adventure story about a misfit elf named Zach. Zach has a knack for causing trouble... so much so that he manages to derail toy production at the North Pole. Worse, he ruins the Divine Reactor, a contraption that houses a ruby that collects energy from the star of Bethlehem and channels it into the machines that run Santa’s workshop. The only way to save Christmas is for Zach to undertake a dangerous journey into a mountain full of wolves and goblins, secure a new ruby, and return it to Santa’s workshop on time. Along the way, a friendly penguin, an oddball goblin, his friend Angie, and Santa’s reindeer aid Zach. Too bad a jealous and vengeful elf named Brent and a wicked goblin named Grife are bent on undermining all of Zach’s efforts. Ultimately it’s up to Zach to prove the power of good over evil.

What I Like/dislike: Despite the many glaring mistakes in mechanics and writing style (misplaced quotations, misspelled words, shifts in point of view and verb tenses, passive voice), despite the strange mixture of seasonal fantasy and historical reality (where we learn that the Star of Bethlehem’s glow “is a signal of God’s pleasure with Santa, the Elves, and everyone who work at the North Pole” - and you’ll note the author said “work” instead of “works” at the North Pole), despite the use of phrases like "what the heck", "oh my gosh" and "darnit" (yes, written as one word, not two, and used at least four times in the first chapter), and despite a drinking reference (Santa needs a double-strength cup of hot chocolate to calm his nerves), the actual adventure itself was viable and clever. However, I believe the story would have worked better strictly as a Santa tale instead of a story where the author tries (unsuccessfully) to make religion a key component. (In truth, it felt more like the author forced religion into it, since Christ's birth, an individual’s faith, and God are not terribly crucial to the storyline and have no real impact on the outcome.)

On the positive side, the illustrations were delightful. Plus, the main character (an elf named Zach) is a likeable fellow worth rooting for. Beyond that, a goblin named Skretch adds a nice touch of humor and warmth. I honestly think that if this book had been better edited, written in a more active voice, and excluded very obvious but awkward attempts to tie faith into the story, I would have enjoyed it. In other words, as a general market book (not a Christian book—sorry, but the star of Bethlehem was meant to herald the birth of Jesus, not power Santa’s workshop, and I don’t want my kid confused about that), I think the basic storyline holds great potential. It’s just not fully realized the way the story stands now.

Overall Rating: Ho-hum. However, in fairness, the adventure aspect might really appeal to kids willing to overlook the miscues I mentioned above and, in their eyes, earn the book a higher rating. (Like I said, the adventure itself holds potential.)

Age Appeal: None listed, but due to the fact that it stars Santa and his elves, it's probably best for perhaps a K-1 audience. (It's too lengthy for those much younger.)

Publisher Info: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2011; ISBN:978-1466458819; Paperback,182 pgs., $10.95

This book is not available at Christianbook.com.
Buy it at Amazon.com for $9.85.

2 comments:

Jen said...

Hi, ladies! I love your blog. Can I play too?
I have reviewed some children's books, especially Arch books. I'm having trouble searching your blog, so I don't know whether you have reviewed any Arch books. But I have a pile of them, and I'd be happy to review them all for you (in time). Check out my blog at http://ritagoodebook.blogspot.com/ and search the index under "children's."
blessings!

Kristina Seleshanko said...

Jen, we apologize that the search feature isn't working on our blog; it's a Google/Blogger issue and we hope to have it resolved soon. In the meantime, you can use the drop down menus to the right to find books. We have, indeed, reviewed many of the Arch books - and at this time, we aren't accepting new reviewers. I thank you for your interest, however, and encourage you to keep following the blog; from time to time we announce the need for new reviewers.