Children's Book Review: "The Lake That Stole Children: A Fable" by Douglas Glenn Clark
Part fantasy tale, part mystery tale, this short book tells the tale of what can happen when a person is locked into sadness. The fisherman, Cal, is a stern father of two young children, a daughter and son. While the daughter, much like his wife, dutifully listens to him and does not disobey, his son is a bit of a wild child yearning for adventure.
The son gets that and more when he is pulled into the river that ultimately leads into Flat Horn Lake and a magical creature. The son isn’t the only child to disappear in this way over the years. Soon the fisherman is forced to confront his own behavior while he attempts to rescue his own son and the other children.
A quick read at 40 pages, this self published book is designed to appeal to “young and adult readers.” Though it will clearly work best for the middle school reader as older readers may find the author’s heavy use of excessively flowery prose a turn off.
“Soon the boy began to cry. His sobbing was so loud the forest began to heave in sympathy. Berries and nuts dove from bushes, leaves flew from their branches, and the sky drooped against the soaring pines.” (Page 9)
The basic point that Mr. Clark is making regarding some parents are too harsh and strict with children in an attempt to protect them from everything comes through clearly to the reader. However, there is alack of nuance to the point which harms the overall message. The fisherman is portrayed as an overly strict father because he is stern while the mother and daughter are portrayed as meek and bordering on being mentally abused. Though the father is raising his voice in dangerous situations trying to protect his son from vanishing into the river it comes across as he somehow is doing something wrong. His wife routinely does nothing when the boy misbehaves and the good daughter is seen as good simply because she does exactly what she is told to do just like the wife. Once the boy goes missing after sneaking out of the house, it is the entire fault of the fisherman and he is blamed by both the daughter and the mother. Love is withheld by the wife at a critical time when it is needed the most by her husband. The overall character image depicted is of a father who somehow didn’t care about things until his son vanished, then takes steps to rescue not only the child but his family as well.
The actual tale embedded in “the Lake That Stole Children” is a pretty good one despite the frequently overwrought prose. The magical creature is what seasoned readers would expect and yet fits well into the story while proving both good symbolism and a foil for the fisherman.
With above issues noted, the result is a good read primarily suitable for the middle school crowd that will occasionally appeal to members of a wider audience. While always important with any book, clearly with the way certain issues are depicted in this self published novel, parents and educators that use this book with children should also have discussions about the material with them.
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