Theo loves nothing more in his life than his grandfather, who, having always longed for a son, treats his daughter’s boy as his own. They go on adventures together – hiking, baking peanut butter cookies, even vacations to exotic locales. But the best adventures for Theo are the ones that involve Rocket, a horse belonging to a local farmer, and the riding lessons his grandfather gives him. However, childhood bliss can’t last forever, and changes hit Theo hard, leaving himm grieving and unable to focus in school. Can he find his way back to himself, and to joy?
THEO AND A HORSE NAMED ROCKET is a sweet book full of childhood adventure. The first part of the book, where those adventures are explored, is the best part. Theo’s grandfather is the sort of warm, loving adult playmate any child would delight in, and Theo’s best friend Winston, fearless and daring, adds a delightful humor to the story. Theo’s curiousity and interest in the world around him makes him quite likeable, and his adventures and observations of his neighbors make an entertaining scrapbook of childhood tales, if not exactly a coherent plot. His grandfather, however, is prone to drawn-out discourses on topics like the environment and animal cruelty. While these are no doubt worthy topics, the conversations feel more like moral lectures aimed at the reader than parts of a story.
The second part of the book, after tragedy strikes, is somewhat drawn out and repetitive – the book spends a lot of time telling us in detail about Theo’s inability to pay attention, interspersed with flashbacks to his past, before it finally moves on and tells us how things resolved. It doesn’t help that the author has a tendency to tell us directly what Theo and others are feeling rather than to describe it and show it, and overuses exclamation marks where they are not needed, a strategy that detracts from rather than enhancing the emotional intensity. Raymond also has a habit of giving cutesy names to various characters – for example Mrs. Speedster (whose hobby is racing), Officer Catchem the policeman, and the frankly trivializing and babyish Cindy Lou Hoot for the pretty blonde damsel in distress (who is given no personality or role aside from that function).
THEO AND A HORSE NAMED ROCKET is a charming look at a childhood full of exploration and interest, but the first part of the book is more enjoyable than the second.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader