Readers’ Favorite Review #1: Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford – November 5th, 2018.

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Congratulations on your 5-star review!

The first snowfall always brings some excitement as the earth is covered in a soft, white carpet. But when the snow in Eden Town continued to fall, relentlessly, continually, day after day and heavier than before, the people cowered in their homes, shivering and slowly starving. It was a desperate situation. The town needed help. A rescue team of young people and their dogs were sent to the nearby town for help, but they vanished in the snow. And then there was Jimmy, the dog everyone thought was a silly, mindless mongrel. It was Jimmy who made it to the nearby town. It was Jimmy who took the message, fastened to his collar, asking for help. It was Jimmy who saved the remaining people of Eden Town. And so the town bell rings for Jimmy, in his memory.

Theo Wadsworth’s little picture book story, A Bell for Jimmy, is a compassion tale of courage tenderly told in rhyming verse. With elegant pencil sketches by Julia Naurzalijeva, the narrative is unveiled like a parable, one told with pride by an elder in the town’s store after the bell ceased its relentless ringing. The storyteller captivates his audience, a lone stranger who has arrived during the sombre ringing of the town’s bell, explaining the events that led to the tribute for Jimmy. Whilst Jimmy is the hero, the tale is as much about the town and their resilience to survive in a difficult time. Beautifully told, a wonderful tale for animal lovers of all ages.

 

Readers’ Favorite Review #2: Review by Sarah Scheele – November 12th, 2018.

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Congratulations on your 5-star review!

A Bell for Jimmy by Theo Wadsworth is a short story in verse that tells a moving tale of a dog’s heroism to save a community. Lovely, starkly surreal black and white illustrations by Julia Naurzalijeva act as companions as we travel back in time while an old man tells the tale of the isolated town of Eden. The man explains to a stranger, who’s stumbled on the hushed village, why they are ringing a memorial bell. Years ago, a terrible winter storm lasted for weeks and almost destroyed the town. A group sent to get help vanished into the storm. Other communities were far away. People had lost hope. But then a small dog became the hero of the town and ever since then he is commemorated in honor. 

Original, dramatic, and heartwarming all at once, A Bell for Jimmy is a modern classic. With a lyrical, well-paced poetic style and good use of a small-town scenario reminiscent of 19th century American writers, Theo Wadsworth exhibits a unique storytelling voice. The book creates a mood and a moment, half-fantasy, half-gritty reality, in a captivating dream world that draws the reader in. Part poem and part short story, it’s a survival tale with a bit of nightmare, and it’s amazingly believable, self-contained and individual like Eden itself. But it is also accessible with an earnest familiarity, a story of courage and memories that touched me by the end. If you like family stories about courageous dogs, this is entirely perfect. And if you like books that make you remember them long after they are closed, A Bell for Jimmy is remarkable.

The following are comments from your reviewer and do NOT appear in your final review. Usually these are concerns your reviewer had that they did not want to put in your final review.

I think this book is quite as much for adults as for kids. I’m not saying kids wouldn’t like it, but adults would be equally or perhaps more interested than kids. You might consider “poetry,” “short stories,” and “general fiction” as additional categories. I read poetry as well as children’s, and it reminds me more of the poetry I read than of the kid’s books.

I compared your work to 19th century American classics because the book did really remind me of these authors. (Not because your author name is similar to Longfellow’s!) These books have a flavor that’s hard to describe, but your book is like them.

 

Readers’ Favorite Review #3: Reviewed by Erin Nicole Cochran – November 16th, 2018.

Review Rating: 5 Stars – Congratulations on your 5-star review! 

A Bell for Jimmy, written by author Theo Wadsworth and illustrated by Julia Naurzalijeva, is a poem that depicts a town called Eden and the plight of the townsfolk during a snow storm. The illustrations are perfectly rendered, having a pencil sketch quality that has a great symbiotic relationship with the poetic narration. Both speak of bygone days and the poetry narration in and of itself also draws attention to a time that is no longer upon us. While A Bell for Jimmy is long for a poem, it reads very quickly with it being part illustration and the words being sparse upon the page. 

Theo Wadsworth and Julia Naurzalijeva truly outdid themselves in regards to A Bell for Jimmy. It had me in tears as a woman who is deep into her thirties. One of my favorite lines in the book, and there were many favorites that I had as I went through it, was on page 39: “Black the mornings, black the days, / even at highest noon.” It has been a long time since I’ve come across a poem that made me cry. There seems to be a lot of sad moments within this beautifully written and illustrated book, although there is some happiness mixed with a touch of somberness at the end. The quality of the words and the illustrations depicted within would be a lovely gift for anyone. A Bell for Jimmy speaks of life and how cruel life can be at times to the point that there is no sugar-coating

you can possibly put on it. It feels like something that could very well take place, but I hope with all my heart that it never did.

 

SamSim, OnlineBookClub.org Review, November 14, 2018. Review rating: 2 stars.

When the constant blizzard rendered

Eden Town an endless white,

Their final hope of rescue

Jimmy carried through the night.

As the brave pup ventured

Toward faraway Ardenboer,

Eden’s folk couldn’t but wonder:

Is Jimmy gone forevermore?

As my attempt at a poetic blurb hopefully illustrates, A Bell for Jimmy, by Theo Wadsworth, is the many-stanzaed story of an abruptly snowbound little town known as Eden. After several weeks of continuous snowfall and a failed attempt to reach the nearest source of help, which claimed the lives of 20 people, the villagers are facing their own mortality when a literal underdog emerges. Jimmy, initially thought to be a “foolish mongrel,” courageously strikes out into the “glacial blaze” in search of Eden’s much-needed assistance. Will he return with help and supplies, or was the furry hero swallowed up by the bitter blizzard?

A Bell for Jimmy is a 50-stanza, rhyming poem meant for children. Each 4-line stanza occupies a right-hand page, accompanied on the left by the full-page, black-and-white crosshatch illustrations of Julia Naurzalijeva. The rhyme scheme, storytelling style, and drawings all gave me a Victorian vibe, although the book never mentions a specific year in which these events are supposed to have occurred. The reader follows a traveler, a stranger to Eden Town, who hears the church bell ringing when he arrives. It has been ringing for hours when the stranger finds the store in the middle of the village, where he meets an old man, who then explains the story behind the bell-ringing tradition.

As a lover of poetry, traditional or otherwise, I was eager to get into this book. I actually really enjoyed books like this one when I was a kid. After the first several pages, I was engrossed and looking forward to writing this review. At first, I thought this book was for very young kids, with the expectation that an adult would read it aloud to a child in order to fully appreciate the rhymes and so both would admire the illustrations. I was a bit disappointed that the illustrations weren’t colorful, as my little ones would prefer. I did like the style of the pictures though, especially those of buildings or nature. When I arrived at some of the full-on faces, I felt they were a bit distorted-looking, reminding me of Tim Burton animation. Personally, I found a few of the people-heavy images were too creepy for kids. Then, somewhere around page 40 and the sixth week of uninterrupted snow, this story gets really bleak. As a parent, I think it gets too bleak, at least for children. 

The villagers start losing cattle, send for help, and start rationing their resources. I felt that this was enough to get the point across, but Wadsworth apparently didn’t think so. After the “20 young ones” fail to return,

“The painful days which followed had an unreal quality, with every home an island hell of crucifying misery.”

And I don’t even want to speculate about what is implied by,

“There were acts of frightful cowardice, there were deeds supremely bold, as under the strain we all became more striking to behold.”

At this point, I wouldn’t read it to my little kids, so I figured maybe the story is intended for older children to read to themselves. This theory is a weak one, however, with words like “treachery,” “harbinger,” and phrases like “mordant quietude of tombs.” As a result, I have no idea what exact age group this book is intended for, but I think the vocabulary and heaviness of subject rule out kids under 10. I’m not sure how many kids over age 10 would want to read a very traditional, long poem, but I suspect there aren’t many. I visited the book’s dedicated website, but other than referring to it as a children’s story, a target audience isn’t suggested. Additionally, the main character, Jimmy, is not even mentioned until page 75, which made him feel like an afterthought, in my opinion.

On top of all this, A Bell for Jimmy needs editing, with numerous missing and misplaced commas, missing hyphens, and lack of appropriate quotation marks. These errors were distracting and kept me from feeling enveloped by the story. I love the premise of this book (who doesn’t love a dog-heroics story?), and I appreciate that Wadsworth and Naurzalijeva apparently want to reinvigorate interest in a traditional style, but the executed result was a very depressing, almost Poe-like story that I wouldn’t share with my children, at least not as-is. I would only recommend this one to die-hard ABCB rhyme scheme lovers who don’t mind paying $16 for a book about a dog. Perhaps, after some tweaking, trimming, and polishing, Jimmy’s bell could ring much more clearly and joyfully in the hearts of readers. Until then, though, I have to give A Bell for Jimmy, by Theo Wadsworth, 2 out of 4 stars.

 

Sophia Flynt,  IndieBookReviewers – November 15, 2018.

Oh I love it!!! I just read the whole thing 🙂  (I’m a very quick reader).. Love those drawings and the poems/writing/story are so good!!  This a lovely read for the Holiday season, (a little bittersweet- more sweet than bitter) and I believe it will appeal to a larger audience than just YA…

A Bell For Jimmy – Readers’ Favorite Reviews