Juniper's parents have not been themselves lately. In fact, they have been cold, disinterested and cruel. And lonely Juniper Berry, and her equally beset friend, Giles, are determined to figure out why.
On a cold and rainy night Juniper follows her parents as they sneak out of the house and enter the woods. What she discovers is an underworld filled with contradictions: one that is terrifying and enticing, lorded over by a creature both sinister and seductive, who can sell you all the world's secrets in a simple red balloon. For the first time, Juniper and Giles have a choice to make. And it will be up to them to confront their own fears in order to save the ones who couldn't.
M.P. Kozlowsky's debut novel is a modern-day fairy tale of terror, temptation, and ways in which it is our choices that make us who we are.
Rating: 4 Stars
Book Title: Juniper Berry
Author: M.P. Kozlowsky
Release Date: April 26th, 2011
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky is an adorable MG book and I couldn’t agree more with the blurb on the back of the book by ALA Booklist which states that this book “Recalls the work of Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, and Hans Christian Andersen.” As someone who grew up reading Gaiman and the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket I found myself diving right into Kozlowsky’s writing.
What I loved about this book was that Kozlowsky doesn’t dumb down his writing because of the audience he was writing for. That is not to say that teens in this reading level will struggle when they pick up Juniper Berry, but it will require them to do some work and look up words from time to time. As a big advocate of improving vocabularies and growing my knowledge base, I think this is a great way to teach children and not just give them a good story to read. Well done Kozlowsky.
Juniper is adorable and I loved reading from her POV. She comes from a house of well-to-do parents who work in the film and producing industry, writing scripts and acting in screenplays. As they get more involved in their work though, Juniper realizes how distracted they seem and their inability to show any interest in her worries Juniper. The parents she used to know and love are gone and she can’t figure out why something has changed. Despite their dedication to their work they’ve never neglected to remind her to stay in their yard or put on her coat before she goes outside. Yet lately, her parents don’t seem to realize she’s even there and when she tries to talk to them they become mean, telling her to leave them alone.
I loved the underlying message in this book about aspirations, greed, and temptations in life. “There will always be temptation, wherever we go in life, with whatever we do. There will always be an easier way out. But there’s nothing to gain from that. We have to overcome such urges; we have to be stronger.” Both Jupiter and her friend Giles’s parents learn this the hard way when they seek better lives by going to Skeksyl, who gives them a balloon that will help them find what they seek. For Jupiter’s parents this means the fame they’ve always wanted and the beauty Jupiter’s mom has lost as she’s gotten older. Jupiter has to help them find a way out of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into, as they quickly learn Skeksyl has ulterior motives that aren’t so pretty. Skeksyl proves deceitful and what Jupiter’s parents thought they were exchanging for these balloons comes at a greater cost than they realize. If you’re looking for a great book that not only challenges your middle grade reader, but also teaches them along the way, I think Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky is a great pick for them!