“Juniper Berry: A Tale of Terror and Temptation” by M.P. Kozlowsky, illus. by Erwin Madrid

Juniper BerryHere’s another book I read for the Bout of Books 14 readathon. Since it was a week-long readathon, I threw this one into the mix because it’s short.

Quick summary:

Juniper Berry and her friend, Giles, are worried about their parents. Their parents changed since acquiring their desires and became cruel and disinterested in their kids. They only care about their careers. Curious about what has happened to their parents, the kids investigate the woods behind their house, where they often see their parents disappear into, for answers.

My thoughts: (minor spoilers)

“The house was a mansion, the lake was a pool, Kitty was a dog, and Juniper Berry was an eleven-year-old girl.”

So starts this middle-grade novel about resisting powerful temptations. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading. I bought this book because I liked the cover and the title. The first sentence, above, drew me in and I felt so sorry for Juniper that I had to keep reading to see what becomes of her and her parents. The more I read, the weirder the story became, which increased my interest.

Juniper had great parents until they acquired their desire and became famous for their acting and directing. Though her parents have become cold and distant toward her, Juniper remains hopeful that one day they will go back to how they were. I sympathized with Juniper’s plight because she lives a lonely life with just Kitty to keep her company. Her parents don’t care for her so there’s no one to protect or guide her, and her parents forbid her from talking to anyone so she has no friends. She doesn’t even realize that one of the games she plays with Kitty is a popular childhood game — hide-and-seek. Kozlowsky deftly drops these facts along the way as he develops his story.

With Giles’s help, Juniper learns what caused her parents to change from the warm, friendly, caring people they were before. Giles is her neighbor and she was glad to meet him in the woods for he became Juniper’s first and only friend. But Juniper’s discovery places her in a moral quandary as she must decide whether her soul is worth the sacrifice for her deepest desire. Juniper takes some time to decide, which slowed the pace of the story a bit. This change in pace isn’t bothersome and might not be noticeable to some readers but I was impatient to know what happens at the end so I was a tad annoyed by it.

I was also upset that the adults were unhelpful. Although the parents were too selfish to help the kids, I thought that someone else — like the people who work on the Berrys’s compound — would have tried to guide the kids in some way. The woodcutter tried but he didn’t provide as much advice as I’d hoped he would. I don’t think this is a major fault in the story. I just wanted the kids to have an adult to rely on since their parents were preoccupied with themselves.

Though the story focuses on temptation, I thought it was about addition at first because the parents are addicted to what makes them famous. They also seem to go through withdrawals and after using their gift from the wood, they immediately change. From the way they act, I’d say they were high. That effect was probably not Kozlowsky’s intention but that’s how it seemed to me. Though, now that I think about it, such an effect is probably inevitable in this story since if what makes us easily attain our desires lasts only for a certain time, then we would keep going back for more so that we can maintain whatever that desire is and thus become dependent, hooked, on it.

Overall: ★★★★☆

I think it’s a great story and I highly recommend it to both kids and adults who like to read such novels. It’s unsettling and a little creepy but I think it teaches an important lesson that both kids and adults can benefit from. The only problem I see is that some parents might be finicky about how the parents in the story are portrayed because they seem addicted to what makes them great at their careers.

Illustrations accompany the story but they are few and are not in color. Despite that, I like them. I believe they are digital illustrations because they are similar to what I see in recent cartoon movies like Frozen. They provide a great visual for the story.

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7 thoughts on ““Juniper Berry: A Tale of Terror and Temptation” by M.P. Kozlowsky, illus. by Erwin Madrid

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