The Land Without Color certainly is an ambitious work, creatively imagined, that succeeds very well in drawing the reader into a fast moving adventure and a magical world. It is not short on many surprises and clever twists in the plot line. I expected that the theme was about diversity but found much more. There were many insightful sub-themes that are relevant and tie into the main theme very well. A lot is very educational as with clever allegory in an adventure written for children the author explores how responsibility and authority can become corrupted. A ruler who is made dependent on others in turn makes his subjects dependent on him in a conspiracy with layers of deception that is slowly unraveled by an adventurous boy who feels he must right all the wrongs.
The segue however between chapters one and two when the story changes from boys asking a grandfather for a scissors to cut fishing line to the grandfather waking up as a little boy to begin his adventure in a flashback seemed a little awkward. As an adult I felt confused as to whether this was the grandfather now young or a grandson with the same name. I can imagine this would be confusing for awhile for a child to read. I got it after a little while and then the adventure started to flow better. Upon second reading I wasn’t sure how exactly this problem should be resolved.
In this story a young boy finds himself in a world with police and guardsmen who don’t make any sense and people who go around with their heads unattached because they feel that thinking just gets in the way of getting practical things done. I must say this reminds me of Alice In Wonderland in which a normal girl finds herself in a world of characters who make no sense. I find the writing style here is more like the Oz stories and the political implications are similar.
The boy, Alvin, finds allies with a talking squirrel who it turns out is female and a talking bi-lingual mouse who speaks in Spanish and English. The mouse warns the boy not to eat the free candy or ice cream that is considered to be “free color” because he says it is “empty color”. Upon being thrown into prison by the king who has been turned into a turtle the companions encounter a man who is in prison for growing his own vegetables which is considered to be illegal color. Everyone in the kingdom has been told that goblins who live on the other side of the Shadow Mountains have been stealing the color from the land which has mainly turned gray. This turns out not to be true as the conspiracies and deceptions unravel. The adventurous boy meets with the goblin king and finds that he is actually a nice guy and the goblins would never do anyone harm. They, also, do not have the power to pull off such an insidious plan either. Do you see the relevant themes in their complexity at work here?
This is an amazingly great, fantasy story in that as it unravels there is a rich past history to draw upon that fleshes the story out. I am in awe of the work that went into the conception of this story. The illustrations as well do justice to this work of literature that could become one of the greats in literature for children. This is why it makes great reading for an adult as well. It is very thought provoking. I could see a child growing with this story instead of outgrowing it. I could, also, see this story being turned into a full length animated film that could be very popular.
I wasn’t going to nitpick about the grammar problems. I wasn’t going to mention anything about my pet peeve of unnecessary commas separating dependent clauses and worse yet even being used to separate prepositional phrases. I understand that the new grammar people are being taught these days gets people to use the idea that wherever there would be a pause in speaking or reading a sentence a person should put in a comma. This is used by people who have never diagrammed a sentence as a crutch when it comes to understanding comma placement. After awhile the grammar problems kept increasing and I see they would even be distracting to a child or anyone trying to read this story. I found a preposition and a word transposed in the reverse order of how they should have read. Although a sentence can go without a verb if in the context of the paragraph the verb is understood I found a sentence in which a necessary verb was completely missing. I even found a word with the same preposition before and after it. It became obvious that the problems were beyond disagreement about style and there are definitely problems concerning editing and even simple proof reading.
Except for the awkward segue at the beginning however the continuity even with all the intricacies of the plot unraveling is excellent. The Land Without Color rings with greatness in a way that is modern and yet classic. I would recommend it (with some improvements) to children between the ages of eight and ten very much. The hard work that is evident in this otherwise, well crafted book should not go to waste and I am hopeful that with just a little editing and proof reading The Land Without Color will go on to become one of the greats in children’s literature! By the way now I see that just one sentence at the end of chapter one would solve the problem with the awkward transition to the flashback and help to tie the story together better with the ending!