Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: 'Elf Hills' by S.S. Dudley

California author S. S. Dudley has indeed seen the world and perhaps that is why his imagination and ability to create fantasy is so facile. Born in Wyoming, he attended the Universities of Wyoming and Illinois, and spent a semester living in Bogotá, Colombia, learning Spanish and discovering the works of Garcia-Márquez and other Spanish authors. Prior to becoming an author he worked as a scientist conducting research in Antarctica, Panama, and Peru. His book, Butterfly Wish, was written while visiting the Amazon for research. Dudley is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. He lives in northern California with his wife and two children.

His newest book ELF HILLS is intended for the age group 9 – 12 – that magical period when pure fantasy needs solid ground to hold the reader’s attention and is precisely what he has created. He grounds his story in the Prologue by stating, ‘This fairy tale, as you might have guessed already, takes place on a hill. Or, rather, on many hills and a mountain or two in Northern California, near what people call the Great Valley. One hill in particular stands out, though, because that is where everything started.’ So we relate to reality with just the glow of fantasy promised.

The synopsis is well composed: ‘Something strange, something magical, is going on in the dusty hills behind the small town of Villaloma. Yet each time Linda Peters puts on her running shoes and sets out to find the enchanted kingdom she imagines--full of dancing elves, unicorns, and more--something stops her. And with school starting soon, she only has a few more chances to really search the hills. While Linda's frustration and doubt grow, her cousin, Nugu, looks for answers in his books and wonders if maybe, just maybe, Linda's stories are real. The day finally arrives when Linda can run far, the day she is sure she will find her magic city. But when she and Nugu feel their goal must lie just beyond the next hill, they only find more hill. Is it all a figment of an over-active imagination; a wistful fantasy? Or is there truly something magical in those hills that only the strong of heart--and leg--can discover?’

To find an author who writes for this 9 – 12 age group who has this much respect for his readers is a tribute to his civility and humanity. Solid writing, fine story, and an invitation to jump in and go with him. Grady Harp, June 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.