Saturday, September 6, 2008

Review: The Call to Shakabaz

Summary: Newly orphaned, Doshmisi, Denzel, Maia, and Sonjay discover a carefully guarded secret about their family. Travel with them and their pesky parrot to the distant land of Faracadar, where they must attempt to retrieve the powerful Staff of Shakabaz and free the land from the clutches of the malevolent enchanter Sissrath. Their dangerous mission takes them over the ocean, under the ground, and into the deepest dungeons of the Final Fortress. Only if they discover how to use their individual gifts can children fulfill their destiny in the ultimate confrontation with Sissrath. -- Woza Books

I was extremely flattered that Amy Washspress, author of THE CALL TO SHAKABAZ, asked me if I'd like to read her adventure/fantasy book for children. Besides Harry Potter and Narnia, I haven't really read many books like this; but I thought that my nine year old daughter might really enjoy this story -- the book is geared to children in grades 4 - 9. It ended up that we both thoroughly loved this book -- it was wonderful!

My initial plan was to read THE CALL TO SHAKABAZ to my daughter before she went to bed at night. I figured that there were 20 chapters, and each chapter would take us about a half an hour a night. I thought we'd be done in three, maybe four weeks at the most. Well, you know what they say about the road to hell... I want to apologize to Ms. Washspress because it took us three months to finish her book instead of one. We were reading almost every night before school let out in June, but the book kind of slipped through the cracks for most of the summer. It wasn't that we didn't love the book, it's just that I got lazy and we weren't really following a routine at bedtime!

Last week, we picked up the book again and couldn't stop reading it. We had to limit ourselves to one chapter each night because the book got so exciting, and I didn't want bedtime stretching any later! In fact, we even found ourselves squeezing chapters into the middle of the day and the evening because we couldn't wait to find out what happened to the children, Sissrath, and the Staff of Shakabaz!

When I asked my daughter what she loved about this book, she said "everything!" One thing she especially loved was that each chapter ended with a cliffhanger of sorts. Of course, she kept begging me to read more (one more page, please), but I knew one would turn into two, would turn into three... After the first chapter, she actually cried because she wanted me to continue and didn't like being left in the lurch. The author did an amazing job of luring in the reader.

Another thing she liked were the many plot twists and turns. This book was an adventure story to end all adventure stories. The book had four children who were most definitely heroes as well as incredibly bad villain -- definitely a good versus evil kind of story. There were many times (probably many times in each chapter) that the characters' lives would be at stake; and her eyes would get big and I'd hear a gasp come out of her mouth.

She also really enjoyed using her imagination while I read the book to her. The author did an amazing job of describing each and every scene so we could picture them perfectly. The places and characters were all developed in vivid detail. I would love for this book to become a movie and see all of the extremely creative creatures come to life.

Perhaps the most important thing that my daughter learned from this book is that "two wrongs do not make a right" -- those were her exact words. She told me that her father tells her this all the time when she is upset about one of her friends slighting her. But I think she was able to make the connection between the events in her life and the events with Sissrath -- if someone wrongs you, it doesn't make things better by hurting them back. She also told me that "violence isn't ever the answer." While she has studied Martin Luther King a little at school, she was not familiar with Gandhi. I liked that this book celebrated these two great heroes, and gave us the chance to discuss their accomplishments.

One thing I really loved about the story, besides everything my daughter already voiced, was the message that every child has something unique and special to offer to the world. All of the children in this story had gifts that they utilized on their adventure. Many times these skills saved their lives and the lives of others. At the end of the story, each child was able to see that they are special and that they used their gifts in a positive way to help people.

Ms. Washspress definitely ended the book leaving open the possibility for a sequel. The first words out of my daughter's mouth were, "Is there more? Can we read the next one?" If that's not a ringing endorsement for a book, I don't know what it. I know that we are hoping that this book becomes a series, and we'll be the first in line to buy them!

I strongly recommend getting the book and reading it with your children. It is the perfect book to read aloud! My daughter is an avid reader and could have read this book to herself; however, I am just so happy that we read it together. I will treasure the time we spent reading it, and I'm sad that the book is over. While we wanted to know how the book unfolded; at the same time, we didn't want it to end. Not only did we both love the story, but we also had the opportunity to talk about the book each night and the lessons we learned from it!


Anonymous said...

I'm adding it to our read-aloud list right now. Thanks for the review!

Amy at Woza Books said...

Julie P.: Thanks for the thoughtful discussion of my book! I'm so pleased that you and your daughter had such a terrific time reading it together. I wrote it to give families the gift you received so I'm a happy camper. I want to let you know that the book just came out in audio book and the audio version is a treat unto itself. The book is read aloud by two outstanding actors (not me) and includes original music composed just for this audio book. Please check it out at Thanks again for your glowing review.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

This sounds like the PERFECT book for kiddo and I! And after reading the author's comment above, I know I'll have to get the audio book too. Kiddo and I love combining books/audio books/movies whenever we can - it's what we just did with Spiderwick. Thanks for the excellent review - I look forward to reading this one. :)

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

Have you tried to write children's books yourself?

Some Inklings' Children's books' statistics