Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace by Jonathan Friesen

Age Range: 11 and up
Genre: Juvenile Fiction // Fantasy
Release Date: 7.24.12
Pages: 304
Publisher: ZonderKidz (Zondervan)

Tag Line: In the darkness of this theater, anything can happen. 

Summary: In the darkness of this theater, anything can happen. The family's broken-down theater has always been a safe place for Chloe. There, no one can see the scars that line her face---scars her inventor father accidentally caused, leaving even deeper wounds between them. In the darkness she meets Nick, a boy with his own hurts. While Nick isn't the most pleasant companion, a rocky friendship is formed over their love of films. Soon the two are working on a movie script about a fantastical world---one that suddenly comes alive on the screen. Chloe and Nick are transported into an adventure beyond what they ever imagined, filled with dragons, magical pools, and a sinister vapor that threatens to destroy everyone. But when tragedy strikes, Chloe must find the courage to step out of the shadows and find what she's always longed for.

"Aldo's Fantastical Movie Palace -- where dreams come true, and nightmares too." {quote from chapter nine}

What I Loved: Okay, so I didn't absolutely loooove this book like I thought I would, but I did like it. I did love the fact that Friesen wrote about two young characters, Chloe (called "Scarface" by her peers at school) and Nick (the blind movie script-writer boy), who were flawed / had "handicaps" that took us on a journey through a magical screenplay into the fantastical World of Retinya. In Retinya both Chloe and Nick must face their fears and their flaws head on. They ultimately learn that imperfections aren't everything and that forgetting the past is not always wise. Sometimes remembering the past is not easy, but it will lead us down the road to healing and self discovery and peace.

Honestly, the story reminded me a little of Hugo Cabret at times with its freedom to just dream out loud onto the page. So, for that, I totally give props to Mr. Friesen! He definitely created a vivid, unique world full of flawed characters that needed to face their fears to find that they were both indeed more than their flaws. And the Fantasy elements of this book were great, I must say!

I loved the pilgrimage feel of the story as well (The Pilgrim's Progress, anyone?), as Chloe and Nick struggled to stay on the right paths that would lead them to find themselves and to ultimately make it to the City of Reckoning in hopes of defeating Vaepor. 

There were also moments where some of the more "side-lined" characters made me laugh immensely, like Chloe's Grandpa and brothers for instance. I really wish that the Grandpa had been a more prominently featured character throughout the entire novel. I really do. 

Also, from reading the back cover blurb I assumed that Chloe and Nick would be together throughout the entire adventure through Retinya, but this wasn't so. And at first this greatly bothered me. But in a way I thought this was a pretty smart idea on Mr. Friesen's part because it made me think of Hans Christian Andersen's story The Snow Queen and of how Kay and Gerda must go on an adventure too, though they are not together for the whole adventure either...they both come out changed and "found" on the other end.

What I Didn't Like So Much: 
I won't spoil anything for you all, but I will say that the beginning and ending both left me cringing and upset. Now, that said, I do want to read the rest of Jonathan Friesen's books after having finished reading this one, mainly because while this book left some things to be desired in some instances, overall I really did enjoy Chloe's character, the vividry of verbage, the Fantasy World of Retinya (cool name, huh? Kind of like retina, you know?) and Mr. Friesen's storytelling abilities. So, was AFMP an instant favorite book? No, not completely. But it was good enough to warrant me desiring to have another go at reading a Jonathan Friesen novel, and I'll admit that I would like to re-read this book in the near future. 

Other nit-picky notes... At times I did have trouble keeping up with who was who, as far as the newly introduced Retinyan characters were concerned, mainly because their introductions were almost too swift at times and lacked a thorough background or explanation as to who they were. 

There were a few grammatical errors, and some uses of the wrong tense/spelling of a word was used once or twice.

I’m recommending this book… If you are a fan of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Bridge To Terabithia by Katherine Patterson, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, The Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis then you might just enjoy being swept away into the Fantasy World of Retinya with Chloe and Nick.

About The Author: Jonathan Friesen is an author, speaker, and youth writing coach from Mora, Minnesota. His first young adult novel, Jerk, California, received the ALA Schneider Award. When he's not writing, speaking at schools, or teaching, Jonathan loves to travel and hang out with his wife and three kids.

*I received this book free through Charleen Famiglietti of DJC Communications/Zondervan for the sole purpose of this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The views and opinions freely expressed in this post are my own.

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