“Book Review: Journey to Jumbalot”
Reviewed by Samantha Hui
A spectacular tale of tiny beasts making big differences
Ryan Wakefield’s Journey to Jumbalot is as entertaining as it is smart, addressing themes of courage, compassion, friendship, and more. It is a classic fantasy tale at heart, but Wakefield brings a delightful originality to it in creating this world and his “jumbo:” the beasts and creatures of Jumbalot who are composed of different Earth animals. Firephants, warthawks, and deermations keep our imaginations churning on this fantasy friendship adventure for the whole family—pets included.
Fat housecat Alby loves three things: naps, a filled food bowl, and his owner Professor Wizoom. But Wizoom soon disappears through a bright triangular door in the name of science. A mysterious voice from beyond beckons, telling Alby to be brave and leave the safety of his now owner-less home. It’s time for him to take the leap.
On the other side of the door, Alby discovers the bright and fantastical world of Jumbalot and its inhabitants. But he soon discovers that the once-friendly kingdoms of Jowla and Wolvoon are warring over the powerful Gem of Jumbalot.
With a ridiculous and furry froguar as his guide, Alby learns that his journey to save Wizoom would also mean saving the world of Jumbalot. In the words of Alby, “Bravery, compassion, and imagination. Whatever, this cat just needs to get some sleep.”
The leaders of the warring kingdoms are the puggerfly Queen Lola and the wolvaraptor Rozer, and they are fighting over the Gem of Jumbalot. It’s their fathers’ battle, but they must fight it to the end. And their fathers are far from perfect, like Queen Lola’s who used the Gem to gain control of the Wolvoon kingdom and become a terrifying, killing beast. This establishes a complexity in the characters’ motives that I love, offering us as readers the opportunity to discuss and understand our own motives as well as those who have to deal with problematic parents.
A strong power and energy in Jumbalot is called the Jumbaloo. It is a force that “teaches us that compassion toward others gives us strength.” Introducing this concept allows us to recognize how Queen Lola and Rozer have a choice to make: whether they’ll move toward compassion or devolve into resentment. Journey to Jumbalot reminds us to hold on tight to our compassion—that it’s well worth fighting for.
This book is sure to be a bedtime favorite with the family. It is jam-packed with adventure, action, and heart, and it would be a great book to teach your children how to handle problems with love and compassion and show them how to lead with their hearts.
BONUS: There are a ton of cat puns in this book! Purr-haps you’ll love them almost as much as I did.
Category: Middle Grade Fantasy
Paperback: 198 pages
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