OneLight Publishing; June 23, 2020
219 pages (ebook)
2.0 / 5 ✪
I was kindly provided an advance-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to OneLight Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC! All opinions are my own.
When I first saw the Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot, it called to mind one of my favorite series when I was younger: Redwall by Brian Jacques. I loved how the animals wore clothes, swords, lived in castles, sang songs, ate wondrous food, lived exciting lives. The adventure in them made me yearn for it in my own life, and steered me on the path that would define my future. While at first the book seems anything but a fun, simple adventure, the story quickly shifts to the story of Rockford T. Honeypot—told via flashbacks by the now elder Rockford to his great-grandson. It details the young chipmunk’s life in Kona Valley, growing up with his mother Emma, father Clarence, and several brothers, all also named Clarence. Rockford was not like any of his brothers, being more careful, sensitive, and obsessed with cleanliness. Because of this, he was very often singled out, even picked on by his brothers and other bullies in the valley. He favored spending time with his mother, unlike his brothers, and found his first and best friend in her.
But it was because Rockford was not like his brothers that his father came to rely more and more on the young chipmunk. Good with books and numbers though the Clarences never were, a young Rockford soon rose through the ranks of his father’s business, even managing it when his parents went away for a season. But it turned out that not even a proper love of numbers and cleanliness translated into anything approaching business experience. By the time his parents returned, Rockford had bankrupted the business, leaving the Honeypots destitute. And thus did Clarence Honeypot—patriarch of the clan—disown his youngest son, leaving Rockford alone while he took his family elsewhere.
And so, Rockford—alone and untested—set out to find his way in the world. His life would take many turns, suffer many trials and travails, but Rockford would face each head on with a bold face, an iron will, and a bottle of lemon hand-sanitizer. Thus begin the adventures, and who knows where they may lead?
First, I’d like to address the present day. As I mentioned, an elder Rockford tells his tale through a series of flashbacks, in-between returning to the present day for… posterity? Some unknowable reason. I found these interludes painful, almost unreadable. I actually began skipping them, as the language was just painful—some amalgamation of “what the kids today say” and what the author thought the kids today say. The language of the flashbacks reminded me of what someone who’d seen one silent generation flick might write to try to approximate it. As a result it’s awkward, but passable. Luckily the language evens out as Rockford gets older, to the point where I didn’t have an issue with it later on. Sadly, the language in the present day never changes.
I had so many issues with the story itself. Here are just a few. (*) The chipmunks and other animals live in tree houses and ride on hawks and geese and do other things that would suggest they’re the regular size. But then they have individual tiny greenhouses that grow things like pineapples and pecans, how exactly? Are they miniature trees? (*) There are lawyers and court cases and legal terms in this book. They’re even like, a decent part of the plot. Why? Either children are a lot more boring than I remember, or this is a mistake. Also, the lesson seems to be that “it’s bad to sue people, unless you do it”, which is… just dumb. (*) The chipmunks live in the jungle in pine trees with monkeys and bananas and… for a book that has a child that points out the inaccuracies of everything, it’s skipped over that some of these things don’t overlap. (*) “Bullies are always bullies and can’t ever change” seems to be another lesson that really isn’t great. (*) All of the animals can talk to one another, except for the ones that can’t. Which is not explained.
The story is listed as Middle-Grade, but seems to be built so that both younger and older children will appreciate it. Problem is—the plot is probably too juvenile to appeal to older kids and the lexicon is too high to appeal to all but a few of the younger ones. In trying to relate to a bigger audience, it actually excludes more readers.
The Adventures of Rockford T. Honeypot is a decent distraction at first, but is ultimately annoying. It’s never a great adventure, though it visits a lot of new, different places. The lessons are sometimes vague, other times glaringly obvious, but mostly just strange. It presents more questions than it answers, and mostly just settles with “this is a happy ending, don’t question it”. My advice to the author: drop 90% of the present day stuff—the interludes, the story-telling, the tweeting and posting and hashtags. In fact, do a complete overhaul on the language. Either keep the legal stuff or change it, but don’t leave it as is; it’s honestly painful to read. Please rework the character of little-miss know-it-all. She’s not endearing. Don’t try to expand your audience—you don’t have enough action, adventure or mystery in this to pull it off. Either explain more things about the world or don’t explain anything—but you can’t have it both ways. If I could offer the reader some advice: Probably skip this one. I know it debuts with a pretty low price tag, but it’s really not a steal. Maybe try Redwall instead, it’s always a classic.