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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boomtown: Book One-Chang's Fireworks Factory (Juvenile)

Released September 2008

Reviewed by Tracy Farnsworth

For all intents and purposes, BOOMTOWN is a Christian juvenile fiction novel, though links to Christianity and religion were few and far between. The only reason I knew it was a Christian novel is because it is published by Thomas Nelson.

BOOMTOWN introduces the Button family. After Reverend Arthur Button takes a job as the new pastor at Boomtown Church, they discover life in California may not have been as crazy as they thought. Boomtown's residents are a touch beyond wacky and their habits are strange to say the least. Home to Chang's Fireworks Factory, welcome gifts include high-powered fireworks and blowing things up is an honorable tradition.

Reverend Button soon discovers that the 24 previous pastors in this town disappeared or die unexpectedly. This certainly makes him uneasy. But there is no time to worry, things are vanishing in the town, including the Button's lawnmower, and Reverend Button is asked by the town sheriff to help unravel this mystery.

BOOMTOWN is a very whimsical and unusual read. However, I found the story skipped around too much for me to truly enjoy. After learning how pastors died or disappeared, that part of the storyline is virtually ignored for the mystery of the disappearing items. Even then, the mystery itself played second fiddle to the odd characters and townspeople's traditions like the 8th grade class's annual "blow up Santa" holiday contest or the evenings spent setting off fireworks down by the river.

Perhaps the author was setting the stage for books to come. I'm really not sure. All in all, I did find the book amusing, but never truly became attached to the Button family. It is set in the 1940s, times were different, so you have to deal with Mrs. Button always calling her husband "Mr. Button," something that I simply find annoying. You also have to deal with the fact that the story is told from Reverend Button's perspective, and as a forty-something his perspective doesn't come across as youthful or fresh, it's actually quite rigid and serious.

For this reason, I'm not sure if the intended audience, 9 to 12 year olds, will be as fascinated with the book as they could had the story been told from either of the two younger children's point of view.

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