Review – AND WHEN I SQUINT IT LOOKS LIKE CHRISTMAS

I agree with the author’s classification of this as a children’s story, and would say that its ideal audience would range from around six to nine years of age, plus or minus, depending on the child. For a story aimed at that reader level, it is lengthy and at points the pace wanes, so I don’t think this would be a story that you would hand to a child on an iPad and hope that they would be self-entertained. I think it would work better as a serial bedtime story, with one chapter per night (two if the child is an effective manipulator). Most of the hyperlinks advance to the next page of text; few involve minor choices. Nonetheless, I think younger kids would enjoy advancing the story this way in the same way that they would want to be the one to flip the page in a traditional bedtime book.

[Some spoilers follow beyond this point]

The story starts with a few elements that I think would not be unduly scary for most kids, particularly with some parental involvement in the storytelling: 1) separation anxiety: the main character, Polly and her big sister, Raleigh, are orphans; early in the story, Polly is thrown into another world without her sister; 2) stranger danger: Polly knows to be careful around strangers, and the wizard sends all sorts of creepy signals, which she correctly picks up on; 3) impaired vision: Polly is very myopic, which is a sort of vulnerability in that she can’t see what’s coming. Kids frightened of the dark should sympathize.

Most of the story is about exploration and understanding. Polly is plunged into a strange world and meets new friends. That world operates on somewhat different principles including magic, and her friends have a correspondingly different world view, but are good ambassadors for their world because they have met other people from our world, they terms them Tourists, before.

Again, there are some tense episodes later in the story. Raleigh is injured when she enters the magical world to rescue Polly, and initially distrusts Polly’s alien-appearing friends. However, despite getting off on the wrong foot, she comes to an understanding with Polly’s friends, and they heal Raleigh’s wounds.

Some handholding may be in order for the last bit of the story. There are some reveals about the wizard and the death of the sisters’ parents. The wizard is disposed of off-screen, but the there may be some questions. After this scene, the story wraps up precipitously: in short, the girls make it back to our world and are placed with a foster family.

This work has been well-edited; there are almost no errors in spelling or grammar. The only thing I noticed was the occasional omission of a closing quotation mark, which is a hard error to screen for when writing this much dialogue.

Evaluation

Story: 7

Voice: 8

Play: 6

Polish: 9

Technology: 6

JNSQ: 0

Preliminary Score: 7.2

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