Review: The Tree of Mindala

The Tree of MindalaThe Tree of Mindala by Elle Jacklee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tree of Mindala was a fun trip, though I feel like I got everything out of one read. 3-1/2 stars is my opinion.

It’s nearly Halloween when sixth-grader Miranda and her younger brother Marcus go with their parents to the cabin their grandparents used to own. While there, Miranda finds a mysterious “snow globe” with a rather Halloweenish setting inside, and her curiosity ends up getting her and her brother sucked into its scene—inside the land of Wunderwood. The kids’ arrival triggers the release of an evil warlock, and they have to quickly learn magic in order to defeat him before he destroys this magical land.

Many of us have read the popular The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Well, The Tree of Mindala definitely follows this familiar route—with its own twist. It’s basically Lucy and Edmund going to Narnia, only instead of a wardrobe, it’s a globe; instead of winter and Christmas, it’s autumn and Halloween; and instead of a lamp and a faun, it’s a house and a dwarf.

The beginning of the story was very flowery (almost literally!) and slow. Then, when I met the main characters, I felt like I’d met them all before, because they reminded me of other characters, like Lucy and Edmund, and (try not to laugh) there’s even a character that had me imagining Gargamel from “The Smurfs”.

But, with its few spooks and shivers and the general good-defeats-evil theme, the story is suitable for middle-grade readers. There were some cool bits of imagination that kids will enjoy (I particularly liked the whole falling-into-a-snow-globe idea, as well as the prophesying pond).

There’s a wide lineup of characters including Miranda, our fearless heroine who doesn’t listen to advice; Marcus, her gloomy, wimpy brother; Raina, the wise, kind, and powerful good-witch-of-Oz type; Skye, the handy changeling; Thornton, the greasy-haired typical baddy; and a hoard of fantastic creatures who remind us we’re in an extremely magical world.

The book interior has a whimsical yet professional look to it (I had an ecopy), with a nicely illustrated map at the beginning, and it reads pretty smoothly, except for a few chapters here and there that had some typos and way too many adverbs ending in “ly”.

All in all, The Tree of Mindala was a little too predictable and cliché for my tastes, but it would be great for the middle-grade reader who enjoys dropping into a sort of Narnia, with adventure, some action, and a portal to a place of fantastic magic.

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