Sunday, March 24, 2024

Happy Book Birthday, Closet of Dreams by Mark Ukra and Tara Mesalik MacMahon!

It's happy book birthday time! As usual, I'm a little off...and screaming this one out 2 days in advance...but I do enjoy book releases. This one caught my attention due to the mix of baseball, a closet of dreams, and a boy facing several problems. First, books which take a sport direction seem to often be popular in the middle grade realm, and secondly, I have a sneaking suspicion that this one slides into a magical realism category, which is often fun.

Anyway, let's take a look and see if this one invites to wonderful fantasy or not. 

by Mark Ukra & Tara Mesalik MacMahon
Illustrated by Donna Dyer
Middle Grade
220 pages
ages 8 to 12


Meet a nine-year-old boy named Child who has big dreams-so big, he's actually got a Closet of Dreams in his home! But Child's fears are really big too, and his path is lined with curve balls, especially those spun by class bully, Eddie.

Follow along with Child's adventures as he discovers the secret powers of his Closet of Dreams and of his incredible animal friends from Kids Park-Ele the elephant, Sister Sue the hippo, and Clarence the bear-all under the guiding paw of Hilda the dachshund. You might just be in for a surprise!



Using the playful border between reality and imagination, this is a fun with meaningful moments.

Child has a lot to deal with, especially thanks to a bully at school, who believes he ratted him out to the principal. Child does his best to avoid the boy, which works sometimes better than others. Child does enjoy living with his Gamma, where he helps her take care of retired zoo animals at the park. But it's a simple life, and they only have enough money because Gamma's work allows them to live in a basement for free. To escape everything, Child plays in the closet, where Gamma stores all sorts of wonderful things, including a baseball jersey which reflects his own baseball dreams. 

While this is sold as a middle grade novel, the plot and text ease it into a category, where well-versed chapter book readers will even feel comfortable picking it up. The plot is straight-forward and the vocabulary works well for the lower end of the middle grade audience. Older middle graders might find it a bit too simple. While the two hundred pages might seem daunting for this level, it's a quick, easy read with short chapters, easy sentences, and enjoyable illustrations sprinkled in. The pacing stays steady, as well, and the plot moves right along.

Child is an easy character to identify with. His worries and thoughts steer around a school bully and desire to, maybe, play baseball. He deals with the situations in a wholesome way, but then, also has the wonderful support of his Gamma. The retired circus animals add a lovely twist, especially since some of them still don aspects of their circus costumes. While this part of the tale begins with both feet in reality, it slowly shifts with Child's imagination until the animals take on a more fantastical role. 

When I read this, I couldn't help but remember the movie Field of Dreams, although this book has very little in common with it. Still, the dream of baseball, facing difficult circumstances, and having a fantastical team (in this case, the animals) create a read full of goodness. 

No comments: