At Salt Lake Comic Con 2015, I was given a copy of Hank Hudson, written by Clark Chamberlain, in exchange for a review. Finally, after almost a month, I have cleared the decks enough to actually read the book, and now present to you, and the author, the promised review.
But first, let’s get the basics out of the way:
Hank Hudson has never seen himself as much of anything, let alone an adventurer. Being the fifth of nine children makes it hard for him to be noticed. Some days he feels invisible. He might be right. When Hank’s dad loses his job due to the Great Depression, he moves the family to California. The one problem, Hank got left behind. With the help of his best friend, Dog, Hank heads across the country to catch up with his family. Along the way he and Dog discover a hidden world filled with mysterious people, mythical power, buried treasure and a dark force that wants to control of Hank. It will take all of Hanks courage to see him through on his adventure home.
Published by Raven International Publishing, Hank Hudson is the first in a series of novels featuring poor Hank Hudson, and his depression-era adventures.
From a readership standpoint, this book is clearly aimed at a young crowd. Middle grade readers. It is geared toward them specifically, with short paragraphs, simpler sentence construction, and lots of quick, almost-but-not-quite frightening action. It is a solid germ of an adventure story, punctuated always by faithful Dog being the voice of reason in an otherwise unbelievable world.
When I put on my editor’s hat, I find some other things to talk about.
First, there is an introductory section that is supposed to be important for establishing the world in which Hank finds himself, living with all sorts of supernatural dangers, but that introduction and its participants are never really referred to again, instead just dropping out except for a very brief mention midway through. It feels almost like a forgotten aspect of the story. While it might be easy to dismiss such a thing as being beyond the target audience, I think such opinions underestimate the desire of younger readers to be pushed and challenged. That is not to say that 10-12 year-olds want to read War and Peace, but rather, making them stretch a little bit early on in the reading process can only prepare them for the future, and more challenging, reading.
Also, from a general editorial point of view, I feel that Hank Hudson might have benefitted from having gone through another solid copy-editing pass, followed by a good proof-reading to clean up some of the spelling, grammar, and syntax. While such things might go unnoticed by a novice, middle-grade reader, a review of this material by a more mature reader, say, another agent or publishing company, would necessarily raise some red flags. Clark Chamberlain can clearly conceive and develop a story, but, at least in this instance, needed some more help when it came to executing that vision.
Not unreadable by any means for its target audience, Hank Hudson is clearly more of a labor of love than a polished product. And while it will likely be enjoyed by that target audience, I hope that subsequent episodes of Hank’s story will get the fine-tuning they deserve.