The Ifs Return
by J.D. Pooker
This middle-grade fantasy is the second of J.D. Pooker's inventive tales of two brothers who stumble upon a pint-sized civilization and intervene to rescue it. I read an e-pub version on my tablet.
It took awhile to get into the characters because I had not read the first book; however, I soon caught up. Main characters, siblings Landon and Broden, are excellent role models for middle-graders by demonstrating strong values of commitment and honesty. The boys' parents are loving, and their 'cool' mother is especially supportive. The bad guys are just evil enough but not too scary or bloody for young readers.
Secondary characters among the Ifs kept my interest, too. They follow conventions for fantasy yarns, with good and evil lining up against each other for a climactic finish.
The Ifs Return incorporates important values of integrity and courage as the brothers work together to save the tiny folk. Pooker presents an imaginative world of little people and creatively fleshes out the inherent joys and challenges of living small. She brings to life the particulars of such a world. I especially enjoyed the delightful way squirrels and tree roots threaten the tiny Ifs' village life.
While well-plotted, the story would benefit from fewer lengthy passages. Narrative is often burdened with details that could be eliminated by shifting from a 'telling' mode to a 'showing' one.
More instances of crisp interjections and dialogue would also move the story along. Awkward phrases sometimes stand in the way of the book's full potential:
Rage filled his eyes, red crept up his neck.
Confusion covered his face.
Landon and Broden felt a joyful heat rise into their faces.
The book's ending (no spoiler!) was engaging and creative. Conflict with the villain was resolved by one of the most creative interventions I've come across and is one that's sure to entertain young readers and their adult family members.
As with most digital books, text, font and spacing can be adjusted to suit the reader. Since there are no illustrations beyond the cover to aid with context and significant chunks of text blocks to take in, this book is geared to confident upper-elementary readers.
I appreciated the addendum the author inserted. It offered children more resources to learn about a scientific subject encountered in the book.
Upper-elementary readers will enjoy this fantasy. The male protagonists naturally appeal to boys, but girls will also want to join the adventure.
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