Trouble in Toy Land (A Hall of Travels Adventure Book 2) by Emmaline Rose
Discover a world where every day is a new adventure…
A new adventure is brewing in Sleuthville, and Amelia is jumping in with both feet! If there’s one thing Amelia wants, it’s to be part of the new Kids Sleuth Team. After all, what could be better than visiting the Hall of Travels, exploring exciting new lands, and solving head-scratching mysteries?
To earn a spot on the team, she’ll have to prove she’s a great detective. So, she sets out to solve a case on her own. Unfortunately, things don’t go quite as planned, and she quickly finds herself in over her head.
After a few hair-raising twists and turns, with a little help from the team, she’s soon back on track. And now, she has the chance to help solve the case of the broken toys in Toy Land!
Will all her efforts be in vain? Or will Amelia prove she has what it takes to be part of the coolest new team ever?
8-year-old Madi’s Review: 4-Stars
I really liked looking at the pictures, and I like the cover for this book.
It was sort of fun to read but had a lot of big words I didn’t understand. I tried to read it to my little brother, but he did not like the book and went to his room to play. The mission was cool, and I like how they solved it. I wanted to hear more about the different lands and stuff. T-rex the dog was funny. I liked him best.
I did like the pictures, but I wanted to see what Pirate’s Cove looked like and the toys with missing parts. Even though I liked the pictures, I wanted them to be in color like the cover.
Diane Andersen’s Review: 4-Stars
As children’s stories go, this one, on the surface, has everything going for it in a charming tale for early to mid-grade readers. A spunky seven-year-old girl named Amelia fancies herself an amateur sleuth, like her older brother, and is determined to snag one of his cases to solve. There is also a magical land that lures them to adventures where they can indeed play and discover unfettered by the world of adults yet still with a modicum of safety. “Imagine a world made up of many different lands,” or our story begins, “Every land has its own unique purpose. Each one is a miniature world in itself.”
Sounds like a great invitation into a wonderful story and I was set for a wonderful whimsical tour through the eyes of childish wonder. Alice had her Wonderland. The Pevensey children had their Narnia. What amazing adventures and characters might “The Hall of Travels” hold? Apparently, everything a child could want: Hairstylist Hollow, Doctor Dale and of course, Toy Land. It’s all there and more through a mere passage through a portal that really isn’t fully explained. “It has simply always been, since the beginning of time,” says the opening introduction.
But I’m not sure that’s good enough. Granted, this volume is book 2 and I was not given book 1 to read. Still, as in Wonderland, Narnia, Oz and all those other magical places children have dreamed of escaping too over the past century or two, this one deserved better treatment and delivery. Unfortunately, that’s where the wonder ended and my eager expectations far outweighed the actual delivery of this chapter book, presumably geared toward ages of early readers taking the plunge into books where the word to picture ration increases.
In essence, Trouble in Toy Land has more to worry about than the plot premise of solving a mystery of missing toy parts, a fact I kept forgetting after its all too brief mention at the beginning and then just became “the case” our fearless protagonist, Amelia, kept having to remind herself to solve while she snarked and sassed her way through everyone in her way. Our heroine seems less interested in solving “the case” than she is about a constant battle of out-besting everyone around her while also showing off how adorably diva cute she is.
She frets more over what she’s wearing and nitpicking her friends’ and sibling’s personal grooming habits than she is about being a detective. When packing supplies for her detective trip she includes things like a tiara (“which beautifully adorns my red hair”) and a small mirror (“a girl must always look her best”). And this kid is seven-years-old?
While it’s an age-old trope among kiddie lit authors to make protagonists sound precocious and smart for their actual years, this one goes too far. A seven-year-old? She comes across more like thirteen, and is even depicted that way in the primitive pen and ink illustrations that look more like a high schooler’s attempt at Anime. Granted, drawing children effectively is not easy, especially in two-dimensional line drawings. Artists like this do not come cheap, so I do commend the author for using artwork that shows artistic talent, effort and with a modern flair. However, for a story about these magical portals, the most boring scenes were depicted instead.
One scene depicts Amelia and her friend, Melody, flopped on the bed like a couple of bored teens, as they contemplate their next detective move. Nothing conveyed the idea of a little girl who easily slips into her own magical world and still plays with toys. Even when it changed into other points of view as Amelia “took an intermission” for a few chapters, it felt more jarring and a clunky attempt to affect the more eloquent strategy of a Lemony Snicket novel as in breaking the fourth wall.
In Toy Land’s case, the entire story lacks the luster and redeeming qualities that make a children’s story timeless and fun for both kids and adults to read. I was left baffled as to who this story is for. Early to mid-level chapter book readers (grades 1–3) would have no reference to this supposedly seven going on thirteen teenage mentality and preteens are not going to read a story about “Trouble in Toy Land” through the eyes of a snarky second grader.
While there are always exceptions to these age markers, and avid readers who’ll read anything in print, it’s doubtful there would be a readership large enough to warrant putting this on any library school shelf or enticing parents to purchase it for their children. And ultimately, as much as children’s authors want to say they are marketing books to children, the ones buying the books are their parents, grandparents, teachers and school librarians.
Having held more than one of these adult roles or closely worked with others, I would not be inclined to buy this for my classroom use or for my children or grandchildren to read, certainly not when there are far too many worthy works of children’s literature out there. While the effort and idea are essentially good, the crafting and delivery leave much to be desired for the market it aims for. Childhood is an all too brief time to waste reading something this troublesome.
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