ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure
Book One in The Cape Cod Witch Series
by J. Bean Palmer
Amazon | Amazon Author Page
Note: This review is based on the copy submitted by the author at the time of intake.
Greetings! The Review Board here to give our take on ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure by J. Bean Palmer (illustrated by Melanie Therrien). Before we dive into the reviews, let’s get a peek at the blurb courtesy of Amazon:
Blurb: When Halloween approaches, a never-quite-forgotten pirate’s treasure awakens some serious trouble in the sleepy Cape Cod town. ElsBeth Amelia Thistle, who happens to be the youngest witch on the Cape, and her friend Johnny Twofeathers, chief-to-be of the local Wampanoag tribe — together with a cast of spirited classmates and curious magical creatures (including two troublesome fairies from the old country) — must face off against dangerous outsiders, and the notorious pirate Billy Bowlegs, to restore the balance of past and present, good and evil.
First to share her thoughts, Harmony Kent.
This is the first book in the Cape Cod Witch Series, and follows ElsBeth and her classmates on their adventures during Halloween. What none of her friends know, though, is that ElsBeth is a witch. This young girl has to find a way to keep her secret, well … a secret, while at the same time attempting to save her friends from danger.
This is a nice length book for children getting into their first ‘chapter’ books. The language is simple, and the story full of fun and light adventure. I adore the illustrations, which are colourful and show the story beautifully.
As a reviewer, I can be a bit of a stickler when it comes to editorial issues, and even more so when this pertains to children’s books. This is because, as well as being for fun, they are also teaching children as they read. To my mind, this makes it even more important that we get the grammar, spelling, and punctuation as correct as we can. So, when I see plenty of introductory clauses without commas following, as well as split infinitives and comma splices, I’m not happy. Add to this, passive writing and delaying the action with lots of “began to/started to” formulations, and filter words, etc., the book is going to lose brownie points from me.
One place in the book contains what I feel is age-inappropriate content. The school principal is ruminating on the fact he will have to “slow down at happy hour over at the Dan’l Webster Inn.” This is a young children’s book! This added nothing to the story from the perspective of its intended audience, and I feel it is out of place. There are also a couple of instances of product placement, which again add nothing to the read, and I feel would be better left out.
The illustrations get top marks from me. So too does the character and plot development. What prevents me from giving a high score, though, is the need for further editing. With the elimination of the bit about “happy hour”, I feel this is a suitable light and fun read for youngsters. As it stands I offer 6.5 Stars out of 10 TRB Stars.
Next on her observations, Wordsmith Andi:
The Wordsmith Weighs In
This children’s book was a cute, short read. True to the book’s blurb, ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure is about a little girl named ElsBeth who is in second grade and happens to be a witch, and becomes embroiled in a search for pirate’s treasure gone awry. Evenly-paced and written for a young reader, this story is nonetheless delivered with maturity and great respect for the subject, characters and plot.
ElsBeth is precocious and well liked by her peers, a born leader when the thick of the action sets in. Each of her classmates has a face and a name and a personality to match. Cape Cod is brought to life on the page through the physical descriptions as well as the inclusion of real life history.
Hannah Goodspell, ElsBeth’s grandmother, is an intriguing character. Palmer tells us, through Hannah’s recounting; the old woman is from the Old Country and a witch of renown. She has a rich history only barely touched upon in this story, apparently told in another book. There is an unstated, or perhaps unintentional, mystery concerning why Hannah is raising her granddaughter. The whereabouts of ElsBeth’s parents is never disclosed or explored. I was also somewhat confused on Hannah’s exact age since the story is set in modern time yet Hannah came to the New World with her husband in the time of the Salem Witch Trials.
Despite these vagaries the story not adversely affected, and is steeped in magic and history. This is a tale of courage and commitment to community and friends against adversity, even the magical kind. The addition of artwork depicting the various characters or scenes adds a quaint visual note to appreciate.
I give Elsbeth and the Pirate’s Treasure 9 out of 10 stars.
Time to add a little Controversy…Mr. Controversy that is.
J Bean Palmer’s “ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure” revolves around ElsBeth, a second grader who happens to be a witch with A LOT of promise. She is the granddaughter of Hannah Prudence Godspell, a very well-respected witch. ElsBeth learns to adjust and adapt to everyday life: the second grade (WE ALL HAVE BEEN THERE: GUARANTEED). A dream in particular that young ElsBeth had will begin to shape Elsbeth’s life, giving birth to a series of events that’ll test her mettle and legitimacy in the realm of being worthy of the title “Witch.”
BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER:
I am a pretty simple person:
I look for Coherence. I look for Flaws. I look for detail in ALL works (whether it is Poetry, Stories, etc.). I LOVE to envision myself at that place in that moment in time. Most of all, I look for something that I would LOVE to have on my bookshelf; something at which that I can look, and smile brightly because it was THAT DAMN GOOD.
I am EXTREMELY Honest when I review.
If I LIKE your work, I will let you know.
If I do not Like your work…
Not only will I REALLY let you know, I will point out more than three examples, correct your work (based on the examples pointed out by yours truly), and give your work a Low Score based on The Review Board’s Ten-Star System which I Designed.
Also, I am very open-minded and will read anything.
I will quickly trust one or two star reviews OVER three through five star reviews on other websites. Those who have reviewed books THAT LOW are from reviewers who see that the work is not done well, and it prepares me mentally for what to expect from the writer.
My BIGGEST Pet Peeve is when I (or any of The Ladies of TRB) do a review and we are HONEST with our reviews and opinions, the author of the work complains about the review that THEY SOUGHT OUT with us.
I WILL be the first to let One know that YOU looked to us to be Honest; DO NOT complain about the VERY THING that you requested from us. IF that does happen, your rating WILL drop by Two Stars (by MY HAND) GUARANTEED and I will note it IN BOLD PRINT in the review (whether it is my review, or one of The Ladies of TRB).
I LOVE the illustrations in this story. I like seeing a picture or two in a story from time to time; keeps my attention. The illustration of Elsbeth’s home reminds me of the Halliwell Manor from the show “Charmed”.
Story wise, “ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure” has a Harry Potter feel; it is fine with me! I can envision myself sitting in the classroom with the battle-axe Ms. Finch, can see the lush and full garden that Ms. Hannah Prudence Godspell is tending, Sylvanas the cat, and Bartholomew the bullfrog. The story has promise and potential to gain a large following, and I LOVE THAT about this book.
There are a lot of missed opportunities in regards to Punctuation Marks; misplacement as well as over usages (NOTE: these screen shots are WITHIN the first 10 pages).
The thing that caught my attention IMMEDIATELY are sentences beginning with the word “and.” This is a BIG literary No-No, and there are A LOT of sentences that start with the word “and.” This takes away from the story if one who is reading happens to be a stickler for literary excellence.
Paragraphs in this read are used in excess to the point where I had to think, “Are ALL of these paragraphs REALLY necessary?” Those paragraphs could have been greatly condensed for an easier flow in reading.
Aside from this, there are three words printed on the above ElsBeth book covers:
“Award Winning Series.”
Thanks to our fellow TRB reviewer Mini Truth, she has pointed me to a site showing a list of Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Winners, which include Elsbeth.
Book 3, “ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties,” won the Moonbeam Bronze Medal for pre-teen fiction for 2014.
Books 1 and 2 ONLY RECEIVED an Honorable Mention as shown on this Screenshot AND shown on the Cape Cod Witch Announcements webpage.
Honorable Mention on the Wise Geek website defines the term as “merely a name given to a distinction that may or may not be awarded at the end of a contest, exhibition, or competition. The definition implies that it is a distinction given to a entry worthy of mention, but not warranting top prize or first place. Depending on the rules and regulation of a given competition or contest, this may be the same as third to fifth place or may be part of an award given to a collective number of participants who rate the distinction.”
On eHow’s website, Honorable Mention is defined as “Events ranging from art exhibitions to sports contests and state fairs sometimes award prizes for achievements, accomplishments or excellence. While the top prizes may be ranked as first or second place, an entrant that narrowly missed out on one of the key prizes is sometimes granted an honorable mention. This means that the presented work is worth attention and honor, but did not quite rank highly enough according to the judgment criteria.”
Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines Honorable mention as, “an award or special praise given to someone who has done something extremely well but who has not won any of the official prizes.”
Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards give awards on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze Medal system. It would STRONGLY stand to reason that Honorable Mention would begin at Fourth Place.
To go one step further, I emailed Mr. Jim Barnes earlier this afternoon (October 27, 2014), Editor and Awards Director at Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and this was his response as to Honorable Mentions (NOTE: Open Image in New Tab to see emailed response clearly):
To me, DESPITE Honorable Mention being described as an award on several sites, it is not an award TO AN EXTENT.
In simpler terms and in MY VIEW, if a book DID NOT garner the Gold, Silver, or Bronze Medal, then it IS NOT an Award Winner.
If people want to get mad at me because I researched AND inquired about an award system AS WELL AS confirm it with the Editor and Awards Director of said award system (in this case, Mr. Jim Barnes), then by all means, be my guest. Your response to what was discovered WILL let us all know how you are facing AND handling this Adversity.
Allow me to clarify:
In NO WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM did I call anyone the “L” word (“L” word being “Liar” as it pertains to the award(s) received). If I did, PLEASE point out the EXACT sentence in my review where I called someone that horrible word.
6 out of 10 stars
“ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure” could be bit of a gauntlet read for those who are easily distracted by grammatical errors. More eyes on this book for that particular reason would have raised its score as well as its enjoyability. Other than that, you all should give this book a chance and see for yourself why I say it has potential, and can gain a following.
Last but not least, Unleashed Speaks.
Confession: I am a bit of a kid at heart so when a children’s book comes my way, I look forward to indulging in the pages. When the target audience is from age eight and up, there are particular things I look for:
- Plot holes
- Pacing that keeps a young person’s interest
- Proper syntax (spelling, grammar, punctuation)
- Interesting characters
- Just enough or if there’s a lot of information, adds and not distracts from the story
I’ll try to be as brief as I can, however, I can make no promises.
Illustrations: The illustrator did a fantastic job. A few of my favorite drawings was of Sylvanas (the cat), Bartholomew (the frog), and Billy (the pirate). The amount of bright colors definitely served to attract attention. The cover was a great combination of colors as well but bordered on being a little too busy.
Pacing: The pacing of the first installment of the series was reasonable. Not too slow but it’s not what one would call action at every turn either.
Tidy Plot: There were no plot holes that I could pick up on which could cause confusion for the reader.
Resolution: The resolution was not one that was a cliffhanger. Therefore, one could probably read the second and third installment of the Cape Cod Witch series without thinking he/she has missed anything. In other words, it is terrific that ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure can stand on its own.
Lack of a likable main character: In a children’s book, I feel that one of the most likable characters should be the main character. Unfortunately I found the main character ElsBeth to be a bit of a brat. Although her cat Sylvanas was the main one causing the mischief, the fact that ElsBeth found it a little funny slightly mirrors a “mean girl” mentality. The supporting cast (ElsBeth’s grandmother, Bartholomew the bat, and the seal, for example) were a lot more appealing.
Proper visual presentation: In my opinion, books for young people should not only be fun but also serve to teach as well. One major component of proper teaching is to ensure that the rules of grammar and punctuation are followed. There were numerous times where such rules were violated.
(1) Use of conjunctions to start sentences. Although the rule has been relaxed slightly in this regard over the years, I am not a fan of seeing sentences starting with conjunctions, like “and” or “but”. On almost every page, this crime was committed. A child should be taught the proper way to use words before taking it upon him or herself to break the rule.
(2) The weird use of quotation marks. In this book, I found several passages where there were strange usage of quotation marks. The following example will mimic what I’ve seen.
Andrew continued, “The lady wanted to give me a gift.
“It looked too expensive for my tastes.
“Therefore, I had to decline.”
For me, this structure is confusing because on the next line, it could be interpreted that another person is speaking instead of knowing that it is the same person. Also, it makes one think that the author just left off quotation marks. It’s better to follow the rules as it pertains to quotation marks rather than this unorthodox method.
Andrew continued, “The lady wanted to give me a gift. It looked too expensive for my tastes. Therefore, I had to decline.”
(3) Abundance of hyphenated words: There were quite a few words that were hyphenated that didn’t need them at all.
Vocabulary: If a young child (in the 8-9 year old range) was reading this book for him (or her) self, some of the language may be a little too advanced for comprehension.
Mention of Name Brands: Does the author have a contract with L.L. Bean? Don’t get me wrong; they have good outdoor stuff. I just couldn’t understand why name brands were mentioned in this particular work. Most in the target age group do not really care about these distinctions, particular those who are close to the age of the main character, who is seven.
Too much extra and off kilter information: In some spots, there was information that didn’t add anything to the narrative, like ElsBeth wanting to get her vegetable garden spell perfect, the “Happy Hour” inference, and Mr. Sparks’ “meltdown” (the latter two I feel aren’t age appropriate). At least, I wouldn’t want my child interrupting the reading to ask the definitions of “Happy Hour” and “meltdown”.
Overall Verdict: 6.5 out of 10 Stars.
ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure has great potential. I like the element of teamwork in the story and the history incorporated as it pertains to Cape Cod. However, I feel like the book is suffering an identity crisis. In some places, it truly reads elementary school while in others, mannerisms and dialogue mimic junior high/high school. There has to be balance in presentation between an adult reading this work to the child, and the youth deciding to read this work alone. If some of these inconsistencies are worked out, along with some further editing, a higher ranking would have definitely been obtainable.
Now let’s take all the scores and divide it by the number of reviewers:
Overall, ElsBeth and the Pirate’s Treasure gets 7 out of 10 TRB Stars.
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