Today is Take Your Child to the Library Day! Get out those library cards at get thy self and children (don’t have any, borrow one or more from a mom needing a break), and get to the library. Check out the new books, the old books, storyhour, and everything else your local library offers. Today’s the day, and then tomorrow is good, and so is Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday . . .
Greatest Guru in all the World
Series: Skyler Livingston Smythe . . . with an E, #1
Written by Jojo Wood
Illustrated by Timothy Johnson
72 pages Ages 7—9
“What do laughing hyenas, a talking dog, a spitting camel, and root beer floats have in common? An aged adventurer and his tall tales set his grandsons to wondering: Are they really just tales, or is something amiss? A mystery, a timeless bond, and a perilous journey awaits. Fasten your seatbelts on this wild ride as their grandfather relates the tales of his greatest adventures through the Swiss Alps, Shangri-La, and the Sahara Dessert in search of the greatest Guru in all the World: Skyler Livingston Smythe . . . with an E.” [back cover]
Greatest Guru in All the World is a new chapter book* series about a “the Greatest Guru in all the World” and his adventures. In this first book, two boys, Jason and Brian (the narrator), are at their grandfather’s. The boys ask him to tell them one of his stories (tales he claims are true), deciding to tell them “the greatest story of all time.”
Grandpa is an “adventurerer,” (“a person who travels the world looking for fun things to do and mysteries to solve”). He wants to find the lost treasure of Himalayan King Shann Gree LaLa, but needs the help of the greatest guru in the world. To find this guru, Grandpa goes to a monastery on the Swiss Alps, to Paris—where he meets Picasso—, the Louvre, and Africa where he saves the guru’s life, but then the man disappears.
Greatest Guru in All the World is a story within a story. The two brothers listen as their grandfather tells them stories that could or could not be true, the boys are never really sure. For example, grandpa helps a blue Picasso out of his depression by introducing him to American Blues (music) and Picasso’s next work becomes his Blue Period. The sacred Swiss cows ate from a supply of cocoa beans, which never run out, reminded me of a well-known religious story.
The stories are not original to the author. Her father told these tales to her, and she to her two sons, one whose name was Jason, same as the narrator. Wood’s PR bio-box states she decided to write this series to capture her father’s stories, adding her own twists. Unfortunately, this is a collection of strange stories none of which (thus far), involve children or have children participating as protagonist, friends, or villains.
Without the children actively involved in the story, chances are slim it will reach an audience of kids. Children like to see kids solving problems, especially when they can put themselves in the story as the protagonist. I cannot recall a children’s story where both the protagonist and antagonist are adults, with the children as bystanders, listening to the story. There is not one child in any of these tales, let alone actively involved in the story.
The ending is odd. Grandpa searches for the guru to help him find a specific treasure, but when he finds the guru, the guru disappears once more. There were many opportunities for humor, yet there was none. The black and white illustrations do not add much to the story. The final illustration, of Brian, Jason, and mom, is definitely Woods and her sons.
Whenever the boys interrupt with questions or disbelief, grandpa says that question is a story is for another time. Sometimes, grandpa makes a statement similar to this one he made to Brian, when Brian “threw up his hands up in the air. ‘You talked to a dog?’”
“Big fella, I would think by now you would realize that not everything is what it seems, and I have seen a lot of everything.”
The stories remind me of the movie “The Fish,” where a grandpa tells all sorts of fanciful tales his son never believes, until one day . . . I loved this movie and would have loved to like these stories as well, but it misses its target – kids. Greatest Guru in All the World is an introduction, of sorts, to the guru who looks to be the star of this series. As a family memento of treasured tales, the series works and will be loved. As a series for children, it misses the mark on all counts.
*Requested as a Middle Grade, xAges 8 to 12.
GREATEST GURU IN ALL THE WORLD (SKYLER LIVINGSTON SMYTHE . . . WITH AN E, #1). Text copyright © 2015 by Jojo Wood. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Timothy Johnson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Booktrope, Seattle, WA.
Purchase Greatest Guru in All the World at Amazon—Book Depository—Booktrope.
Find Greatest Guru in All the World on Goodreads HERE.
Meet the author, Jojo Wood, at her facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jojowoodwrite/
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Meet the illustrator, Timothy Johnson, at his website: http://www.timjohnsonartist.com/
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GREATEST GURU IN ALL THE WORLD. Illustrations © 2016 by Timothy Johnson. Used by permission of Booktrope.
Copyright © 2016 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
Full Disclosure: Greatest Guru in All the World by Jojo Wood & Timothy Johnson, and received from Booktrope, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review. The opinions expressed are my own and no one else’s. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
DON’T FORGET! Get to the Library today and every chance you can. AND take your child, a friend’s child (with permission, of course), your neices and nephews. Heck, take mom and dad, too. Just get there. Lirary’s really are fun places to spend an afternoon.Q
I appreciate the review and honesty. The stories are actually mine based on my dad always bringing up his “friend” Skyler when we would go on road trips. Yes, the boys are also based on my own children but the rest is completely fiction. The reason the Guru disappears in the end is to add a bit of mystery as its a 4 part chapter series. Grampa tells how they are all connected to the Guru and how their friendship evolved. The next book finds him with Santa and how the hot chocolate came to be in his hands and the little troll dolls which I twist into leprechauns.
This is an honest review. The story does sound interesting, but kids want to see themselves. It reminds me of books/tales in my childhood. I reviewed a NF book I really loved, but only the first page featured the child and what molded him to pursue his path later in life. The remainder of book really focused on the grown-up and what he did. But, I think you can get away with that in biography/NF.