by J. D. Pooker
Little Devil Books
Back Cover: “Mom, Landon’s throwing food “
“No, I’m not!”
Landon and Broden are brothers. And some days they DO NOT get along very well. They spend most of their days fighting, arguing and plotting ways to get revenge on each other. Then, strange things start happening . . .
The brothers want to share their weird experiences, but they don’t know if they can trust each other. But when they find out who’s behind all the strange things around the house, they are called to battle. Battle? Whoa! Right there in the forest by their house! A battle with the most unusual of creatures and wildest of beasts. And when the battle turns more dangerous then they imagined, Landon and Broden must face their fears, put their grudges aside and learn how to work together.
First Sentence: “Good night boys, I love you.”//
Landon and Broden are brothers, two years apart. Landon is in the fifth grade and Broden in the third. They wake up each day fighting and arguing, throwing food, and plotting revenge against the other. Amazingly, they share a bedroom. However, when they get out on their bikes to play—always together, without other kids—they are fine.
Strange things happen for the boys. Landon’s homework is mysteriously finished, though incorrect. Landon’s broken shoelaces are fixed . Broden hears noises at night that are not the cat and dirty clothes mysteriously get tossed into the hamper. No one will, or can, take ownership to any of these misguided attempts to help.
The boy’s favorite activity is to go to the park near their home and play as if ninja warriors. They find a nice empty patch of grass in the wooded area that most do not know about. Here, the two brothers practice sword fighting with sticks, and other ninja moves, without the intrusion of people walking the nature trails. While doing this one day, Broden thinks he sees a little man. Just as quickly, the little man vanishes. At home, Mom explains about the Ifs and how to capture them. The boys do this and soon have Slade trapped in a large glass jar. Slade’s village is on the verge of destruction by a rogue group of Ifs. He needs the boys help to protect his people. With two giants, he would undoubtedly win any confrontation. The boys agree.
Before Slade can return with the battle plans, another little man shows up. Gage also needs help with a group of Ifs causing his village trouble, but no, he says, it is not Slade’s group. Gage lays it on thick, soon trapping the boys in the middle of a fight between Slade and Gage, two If brothers who branched off over a lost election and a girl.
Now Landon and Broden must figure out which side is good and which is the enemy. One is kidnapped, held prisoner, and coerced into fighting with Gage’s warriors. Once again, it will be brother against brother, only with huge stakes involved. Each on his own must figure out how to protect the other. Oh, and make it home in time for dinner.
The story of The Ifs is the basic two brothers who dislike each other and must learn to put those feelings aside in order to become a dynamic unified force against something. In the end, the brothers should grow past their mutual hatred and become loving brothers (or a least tolerant without the hate). Countless stories have used this theme, sometimes working and sometimes not. In The Ifs, the theme works. Broden and Landon fight over everything and every remark, every small slight, every touch requires a revenge plot. These boys should be so mean that the house is in a constant uproar. That is not the case here even with mom all but ignoring her sons fighting
While the story is good and has interesting characters, Broden and Landon are interchangeable. There is little to tell them apart other than age and Broden being a tad shorter and a bit more sensitive. Mom is the supportive character who tells the boys about the Ifs, then ignores her sons coming home with scratches, bruises, and dirt from head to toe. She responds to her sons as if she understands what they faced and I think we are to surmise that this is because she had an encounter with the Ifs as a child.
The story has elements of surprise, though no twists, and uses forest animals in interesting positions as warriors on both sides, though they are not “unusual creatures and wildest beasts.” The Ifs use hawks, blackbirds, squirrels, pack dogs, and a fox mainly as transportation until the fighting begins. The biggest problem with this story is the writing. Most all of it is telling, telling, telling.
“Landon sat at his desk, his head resting on his hand, staring at a piece of paper as Broden entered the room. He told Landon that they had to get ready for bed, then headed into the bathroom. He grabbed his toothbrush, spreading the paste on the bristles. He stared at himself in the mirrors as he brushed his teeth. Landon came into the room and tried to push him out of the way with his elbow. What was he doing? Broden was there first. He used his elbow to push back. They got into an elbow war until Landon hit Broden with all his strength. Broden yelped at the pain before moving out of the way. Why couldn’t he wait his turn to use the sink? He just had to barge in. It made Broden so mad. Landon thought that just because he was older and stronger he could do what he wanted. It wasn’t fair.
Mom alert! She came to tuck them in and turned out the light. Broden lay in bed and stared at the top bunk. He heard Landon settle into his covers. After a few minutes, Broden was sure Landon was asleep. For a second, Broden thought about getting revenge. It sounded like a good idea to . . .”
The majority of the story is the narrator telling us what is happening, how the character feels, and what they are thinking. I want the characters to tell me these things. After so much of this narration, the story became a difficult read. Had this not been for review I may have laid it down for good.
Dialogue is another problem. There is not enough of it. In the two paragraphs from the book (above), there are at least ten possible lines of dialogue. This scene would have been much easier to read, and more interesting. Dialogue could have helped show the differences between the two brothers. Instead, we get the narrator’s thoughts, disguised as the character’s thoughts.
Because the story is good, because the action is good, and because the individual scenes could be good, The Ifs is a story with a lot of promise. With good editing, much less narration, and more dialogue The Ifs would be an outstanding read. I am hoping to read a second edition—and revise this review. Kids will love this story when this occurs and I sincerely hope it does. The author has the ability to construct a story, knows how to increase the tension, and build the plot. Learning how to write is an ongoing lesson. With a few lessons in those problem areas and J. D. Pooker (a pen name), will be writing award-winning children’s books.
by J. D. Pooker website blog blog list facebook twitter Little Devil Books website blog facebook twitter Released April 23, 2013 ISBN: 978-0-9858280-3-5 146 Pages Ages 8 to 12 . © 2013 Little Devil Books Text: Copyright © 2913 by J. D. Pooker Cover Art: Copyright © 2013 by Frank Walls
Personal Note: Please do not use your own children’s names in your story. It is getting to be a common practice and I do not like, if you will, this vanity. What is your opinion?