November 2013 - Kirkus Indie Official Review - "The Helper"
In the first book of Lovelady’s children’s series, 11-year-old Johnny Saturday’s weekends get a lot more interesting when he discovers a magic journal that takes him on adventures into folklore.
As the middle school bell rings on a Friday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas, Johnny and his neighborhood friend Lola can’t wait to begin the weekend. The recent kidnapping of a child on the other side of town casts a shadow over Lola’s plans, but Johnny looks forward to playing sports with his friends and sketching action figures in his room—his favorite activities.
At Johnny’s home, readers meet his housewife mom, his somewhat eccentric inventor father, and his little sister, Sarah Boo. There, he discovers a black leather journal in the attic inscribed with the letters “J” and “S.” Although Johnny’s father seems to be aware the journal is more than it appears, he allows Johnny to use it for his drawings.
That night, as Johnny sketches action figures in the book, one of his drawings stands up on the page to talk to him. “Johnny, you must come with me!” the figure pleads—Sarah Boo has just been kidnapped! Johnny takes the figure’s hand and enters a world of folklore inside the journal, which offers him clues whenever he gets stuck during his journey.
Young readers will learn little-known stories about Santa Claus as the characters journey to northern Germany to meet a fairy named Kabladine, learn about a Spanish elf named Zwarte Piet and travel to Antarctica to find out what’s happening to the missing children.
The book cleverly capture kids’ imaginations while bringing old folk stories to life, and the prose is solid and accessible throughout, with charming illustrations.
A solid start to a promising, folklore-and-fairies series for young readers.