Adventures with Ragweed: A Collection of Whimsical Tales

Adventures with Ragweed

This review is brought to you as part of the Virtual Book Tour for Adventures with Ragweed: A Collection of Whimsical Tales, hosted by Sage’s Blog Tours.

This review is likely to be slightly shorter than my usual posts as its focus is on a book of short stories rather than a single novel.

Adventures with Ragweed: A Collection of Whimsical Tales was first published in 2013 and was written by Linda Lou Crosby and illustrated by Andy Atkins. It contains a selection of ten short stories, each focusing around the adventures of a young girl named Ragweed.

Ragweed is a young teen with unruly hair and a penchant for getting into trouble, even when she sets out with the best intentions at heart. With her long-suffering friend Marney in tow, Ragweed manages to turn even the smallest task into an adventure. From cooking eggs to building a float for the Christmas parade, somehow everything she does leads to chaos and wacky mishaps.

Although her actions often cause trouble for herself and her parents, she faces every challenge with a sunny disposition and a unique world view. At least, at the end of the day, her life is far from dull.

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Although its Amazon blurb states that this collection is aimed at a young adult audience, I actually felt that these tales would be better appreciated by readers younger than this. The stories are incredibly short – ranging between six and twelve pages long – and are very easy to read in terms of both style of prose and content. Although they could well be enjoyed by an older reader as a light read, I think that an 8-10 year old would probably get the most out of the subject matter.

The character of Ragweed reminded me a lot of Dennis the Menace (US Comic, British readers, not the one from the Beano). Although there is no Mr Wilson equivalent, Ragweed has the same ability to cause trouble wherever she goes and still seem to be utterly endearing while doing it.

Yet for all Ragweed’s charm, I could not help but feel a little sorry for her. Perhaps it was because her wealthy parents seem to border on being neglectful. They appear to be largely preoccupied with appearances and their own personal gain but don’t really seem to pay a lot of attention to their daughter. Even when Ragweed misbehaves, she is frequently let off the hook without any sort of punishment. In Ragweed helps with Chores, she crashes her father’s car and is let off doing housework for the rest of her life. Later, in Ragweed mows the Lawn, she goes on a joyride on a lawn mower and utterly destroys the gardens of two neighbours, only for her father to be impressed that she managed to start the lawnmower by herself. I get the feeling that I’m probably reading too much into this, but it just felt a little as though maybe some of her acting out could have been the product of improper parenting.

This little observation aside, the short stories are for the most part very well written and the style of prose is light and often amusing. Cosby has a knack for taking very simple events and making them entertaining to read. In Ragweed fries Eggs (probably my favourite of the stories), the protagonist decides to see if it possible to fry eggs on the pavement during a very hot day. This is an incredibly simple idea for a story and is also well within the realm of possibility for something that a child would actually try. Similarly, Ragweed grows a Garden shows her exacting revenge on a mean-spirited gardener by sowing bean plants in his neatly mowed lawn. Again, this seems like a very believable way for a child to get revenge on an adult, and would be more than possible for them to actually attempt.

However, the text was not perfect. Particularly in the last few stories, I noticed a decline in quality. Ragweed and her Racket had some passages that seemed to contain randomly italicised words which served no apparent purpose, while at some other points in the novel I noticed some grammatical slips such as missing punctuation marks and typographical errors. Although these did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the story too much, it was a bit of a shame as they were rather noticeable and tighter editing would have ensured that they were completely removed.

Additionally, the stories were rather repetitive. Although they were incredibly short, time was devoted in each of them to remind us why Ragweed had her nickname, how uncontrollable her hair was and the occupation of Tex, the nice man who lived across the street. In a collection such as this, it seemed like a waste of word count to keep hammering these points home again and again. It was not as though the reader was likely to forget them in the space of eight pages. Further to this, some of the stories did end rather abruptly with no real conclusion. The most noticeable of these was in the final story – Ragweed rides a Horse – which did not really develop much beyond ‘Marney wants to ride a horse. Ragweed sulks because she doesn’t like horses. Then she rides on a horse and everything is ok’. Although all of the stories are simple, this one seemed particularly weak as there was no real story-line or an sense of whimsy, thus making it seem rather pointless.

When it comes to characterisation in the stories, I also don’t really have a lot to talk about. The cast do not really have any kind of emotional depth as the stories are so short they simply do not have the time to develop personalities. While this did not really feel like a problem, I must admit that it made the book blurb on Amazon seem a little inaccurate. This described the collection as having themes such as family relationships and friendship, but neither really came across for me. The only thing that I noted in the collection was that Ragweed really was a bad influence on Marney – she roped the poor girl into so many hair-brained schemes with little regard for her friend’s feelings or safety.

To conclude, Adventures with Ragweed is a cheap and cheerful collection that brought back many happy memories of my childhood. Although the prose seemed to be more suited to younger readers, the stories might be ok as a light read for an older reader. Although there is no real sense of substance to either the characters or the plots, if you are looking for something upbeat and easy to read you could do far worse than this collection.

Adventures with Ragweed: A Collection of Whimsical Tales can be purchased as a Paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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