, , ,

As the parent of a reluctant reader, and having taught many of them in the classroom, learning about a new genre called “illustra novel” gave me hope that a book that, once started, will actually get finished. Part novel, part comic book, part graphic novel, The Dopple Ganger Chronicles: The First Escape by G.P. Taylor promises to encourage reluctant readers into tackling bigger books without feeling overwhelmed before they even start (a common challenge at our house). The “illustra novel” is also a treat for children who already love to read and is a feast for the eyes as well as the mind.

This fast-paced, high-energy, intense story will keep readers turning pages faster than they ever have before. Twin sisters Sadie and Saskia team up with fellow orphan Erik to escape the drudgery of the orphanage. Along the way they discover dark secrets and a conspiracy that could separate the twins forever. The target audience is grades 4 – 7 and I would not encourage it for younger readers without a parent reading it first. There is subject matter that is more manageable for older readers but may be a bit scary for younger ones. The intensity in the plot is relieved by humour that appeals directly to this age range (there is a stuffed donkey bottom involved – need I say more?) While at times I found the jump from novel to comic a bit hard to follow, my reluctant reader made the leap seamlessly and caught the visual story details that I often missed. The First Escape introduces spiritual themes and the author has left room to expand these themes in the coming books.

Taylor is a master wordsmith who has honed his craft to challenge this age group. He gives the reader word pictures that appeal to them and directs them to visualize things in new ways. One of my favourite lines is found on page 9: “Together, they were like two wild cats that had taken human form, sent by an avenging angel to wreak havoc on humanity.”

This series promises to be an excellent resource in the classroom as well as at home to encourage reluctant readers to actually finish a book, thereby gaining a great sense of accomplishment. This is how the reading war is won!

I give this book 5 stars out of 5.

I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.