I’ve been aware of The Odessa Chronicles for several years, thanks to the incessant, shameless plugging by its authors, Carolyn Shelton (joyroses13.wordpress.com) and Colin Chappell (meandray.com). They follow my blog, and I follow theirs. And if you’ve ever followed our comments, you may have noticed how much we sometimes antagonize each other. It’s all in good fun, but whew, it sure gets dicey at times.
My impression from their plugs was that The Odessa Chronicles was an apologue of talking animals that teaches moral lessons. So I was resistant to read it, as there’s a rebel in me that I enjoy harboring. Moral lessons are anathema to us rebels.
But in an idle moment of insanity, I took a look at their book on Amazon and decided to give it a go. But hell, I wasn’t about to fork over 25 bucks for the hardcover edition. And the paperback version isn’t much cheaper. So I ended up shelling out $4.99 for the Kindle version, which I read on my PC.
The first thing I noticed was that the writing was highly polished, flowed smoothly, and captivated my attention. This surprised me, as Carolyn’s blog posts, while fun to read, tend to contain technical errors, misspells, and head-scratchers. I wondered, did Carolyn write the rough, while Colin applied the sandpaper? I suspect that was at least partially the case.
I’m pretty sure Colin wrote the owl character’s lines, though, for they often involve the owl humorously correcting everyone’s use of the English language, with punctilious perspicacity. That’s pure Colin.
And the book indicates that Colin wrote at least a few other chapters, such as Odessa’s Journey. The fact that Colin had a strong influence in the making of this book, gave me hope that it would contain a definitive ending. Which it did. Sort of.
There are 48 chapters, counting the Introduction, and most chapters required only a few minutes to read, even for a slow reader like me. A few chapters were rather long, but they were broken down into parts. I appreciated this, as it was very considerate of my short attention span.
The first four chapters, after the Introduction, introduce the characters, who are Jaxon (a Jackalope), Odessa (an owl), Dewey (a cat), and Joshua Jeremiah Jonathan Jackson Pebblestone, aka the Man-Servant (a human being).
Jaxon, the Jackalope, has magical powers, and makes it possible for all four characters to communicate with each other. Dewey the cat takes advantage of this, and starts ordering Joshua around, finally giving him the nickname, Man-Servant.
Jaxon, Odessa, Dewey, and the Man-Servant decide to call themselves the Four Adventurers. They live on a farm, called Moonbeam Farm, where most of their adventures occur. Here they come to life, as the authors insightfully paint their characters with depth and feeling. By the middle of the book I sensed that I had come to know them well, and could regard them as my fictional friends.
Many of their adventures involve the animals pulling practical jokes on the man-servant, and the man-servant getting his revenge by japing them back.
The authors lace lessons on life into the adventures, often in humorous ways. I got quite a few chuckles, and this made the dreaded moral lessons easier to swallow.
While swallowing, here’s a few things I learned for my moral edification:
- If you pull a practical joke on someone, expect one to be pulled on you (The Roof Top Incident).
- Just reading about something, such as riding a bicycle, does not make you an expert on it (The Bicycle Adventure).
- Don’t agree to do something without knowing what’s involved (Brave Dewey).
- Be clear and logical in the way you communicate (the many dialogues with Odessa the Owl).
- Don’t play in cardboard boxes sitting by the side of the road (The Cardboard Boxes!).
- Don’t interfere with elections (The Greenwoods Election!).
- Give gifts that the receiver will appreciate, and not necessarily the giver (Dewey’s Gift-Giving Day).
- Don’t use magic to harm others (Dewey goes on a “Ride”).
- Do as you say you are going to do (The Spirit From The North).
- Don’t cheat at gambling (The Horse Race).
- Follow your heart and comfort those who need comforting (Dewey and Jaxon Follow Their Hearts).
- It doesn’t always have to be summer. You can have fun any time of the year. (The Trouble With Fall).
- Not everyone likes, nor should eat, a Fluffernutter sandwich (The Picnic Lunch).
- Unicorns are real, and can cure you of the blues (The Dewey Blues).
- When you pull a joke on someone, think it through thoroughly, first, to make sure they don’t get hurt (A Snowy Day Adventure).
- Sometimes you can have the best adventures in your own backyard, and they don’t even have to be planned (A Snowy Day Adventure).
A touching and suspenseful adventure (Odessa’s Journey) takes place about a third of the way into the book, where the owl, Odessa, leaves Moonbeam Farm to find some meaning to her life. This tale is broken down into 4 parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 3. Yes, that’s right, there are two Part 3’s. This is one of the few technical glitches I found in the book. I don’t like to be nitpicky, but since Odessa the Owl can be very particular and exacting, I think it’s only fitting for me, too, as the reader and reviewer.
There are bizarre moments, such as when the adventurers meet two seagulls named Bob One and Bob Two (The Odessa Odyssey). When addressed together, they ask to be referred to as Bob Three, since One plus Two equals Three. Although Bob Twelve could also work. Think about it.
This is a long book, by my aversion-to-reading standards, sort of reminding me of War and Peace. No, nothing is that long. The real problem is, I read slowly. But the chapters are self-contained adventures, so it was easy to digest it piecemeal, while gradually working my way through, over the course of a few weeks.
Colin is Canadian, and Carolyn is a lady of the States. Together, they have reached across an international border and conspired to write a classic. I loved the book. They tout it as a book for children of all ages, so perhaps I’m betraying my low maturity level. But I think it’s a good read.
The Odessa Chronicles is available for sale, on Amazon. You can click this link to learn more.