Written by Brock Eastman
I struggled to decide what rating to give this middle-grade novella; I decided to go with four stars because the writing is appropriate for its intended audience. The dialogue is on point for thirteen-year-old Hudson and his friends. Lots of adjectives and onomatopoeia to keep the story interesting as well as those illustrations of the tree troll.
Hudson is a typical teen; he loves to play video games and test the limits with his parents’ rules. Hudson gets grounded when he comes home late because he took a short cut and trespassed on Mr. Gilbert’s property nearly falling off the bridge in the process. Of course that wasn’t the whole story, Mr. Gilbert had called his parents catching Hudson in a lie. Hudson doesn’t take long to decide to sneak out and join his friends for their camp out.
Orin, the neighborhood bully and his friends, come across Hudson with his friends in the woods. They dare them to trespass on Mr. Gilbert’s property to prove that they are not afraid of the legend that a Tree Troll exists. When they take the dare; the real adventure begins. Soon the Dark Demon appears. Is the legend real? All the teens including the bullies must struggle to survive. What will happen to the boys? Will their parents and Mr. Gilbert find out?
Lots of adventure, danger, paranormal and coming of age issues combine to make the novella appealing to the middle-grade audience. Despite the fact that there is lots of passive voice and the writing style could be sharper, this is a tale well worth reading for the eight to twelve-year-old target audience. The author has developed a set of discussion questions for each chapter, which makes the book a good choice for a classroom read aloud and discussion.