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The Call to Shakabaz

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by Amy Wachspress

I consider this a story for children but certainly all people of the world could profit from its themes. This is an enchanting fantasy adventure of four orphaned children, two sisters and two brothers, who travel to a mystical land on the Eve of Midsummer, the longest day of the year. Before they make their exciting journey it is clear they are having difficulty adapting to life on their aunt’s isolated acreage when they are accustomed to the action and activity of city life.

The trip involves travel to a land filled with colorful people, creatures and critters. Unfortunately all who live there are under the rule of an evil dictator who holds the reigning royal monarch as a hostage aka puppet. The name of the book comes from a formidable, nine feet high totem-like wand that gives the dictator, Sissrath, unlimited powers. Shortly after arriving in this mystical land the four realize they are more than merely four orphaned children. They have a mission to take from Sissrath the Shakabaz, made from the heart-wood of a murdered Red Oak tree. This quest is expanded by their searching questions such as "We want to know who are we?" Many other mysteries confront them but seldom do they receive a direct reply. To that specific question the reply they’re given is "…doesn’t everyone?" Similarly they must resolve for themselves the solution to many of the situations they encounter. Through their perils they are aided and compensated by the fun of riding docile tigers as their means of transport and frolicking with Intuits, the parrot Bayard, Geebachings, singing whales and a plethora of other imaginative cohorts.

There are many morals contained in this story. Aside from paying tribute to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the story teaches much by example. None is as amusing as the revelation of the meaning of less-used words from the mouth of the freed royal monarch Hyacinth. One of his eccentricities is the misuse of words but his daughter always corrects him, adding the possibility of painless instruction along with humor to the reader. Additionally each orphan develops a distinctive and rewarding self-knowledge and self-awareness that yields an appreciation of their new home with their aunt once they return.

A well written, well edited story recommended for pre and early teenagers.


ISBN 0978835026
Woza Books, 2007
272pp, paperback
Retail price $15.50

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Review by Nan Seal