2 Stars Out Of 5
Warning: Very scary for young or sensitive children!
December 5, 2014
After reading all the glowing reviews, I was so excited to start this book with my 8 and 6 year old children. We only made it though 4 nights before I had to quit. I finished it on my own to see if it got any less scary, and it did not. I will keep it for when my kids are around 11 years old. Jotham is a 10 year old shepherd boy who gets angry at his father for not allowing him to travel to the big city with his older brothers. He runs away, and is frightened by the jackals and starves. He decides to return home, only to discover his family thought he was eaten by jackals, and has moved their caravan on, in an unknown direction. Jotham is tormented by fear, hunger, regret, and extreme sadness. In his following quest to be reunited with his family, he is kidnapped, struck hard, sneered at by evil people, whipped, starved, etc. He observes his evil captor slice off the fingers of a boy who was reaching for more meat while they were around a fire. The captor says, "I killed my father, his wife, and his children because they only fed me twice a week. I will kill you, too, if you take my food." The captor attempts to sell Jotham as a slave. After he escapes, he thinks he is being kidnapped again by a man. The captor and his men pursue Jotham and he is continually on the run, hiding in caves with the bad men's footsteps and voices right outside, etc. Each night ends with a dangerous cliff hanger. Each time you think Jotham is finally safe or with an adult he can trust, something scary happens (the man protecting him may have to sacrifice his life in order for Jotham to make a run for it, a kind adult turns out to be an evil captor, the bad men come back and are in hot pursuit, his friend is murdered, etc.). There is ancient Jewish prophecy woven throughout. It is a bit over my kids' heads the way it was worded, so I'd have to put it in layman's terms for them. Yes, all ends well (Jotham is reunited with his family, the evil man dies in the end, and the angels come to tell the shepherds to go see the newborn Messiah). However, my kids were going to bed frightened or disturbed. Thinking about a boy's fingers being cut off by an adult, or that Jotham was struck hard and whipped and was going to be sold as a slave, never to see his parents again, etc. was too much. They were thinking more about child abuse and fears of being kidnapped than the birth of Christ. Maybe in a few years, we'll try again. Lots of reviewers loved it for their 5 and 6 year olds, so it probably just depends on how sensitive your child is.