A Boy in a Park: Tales of Wonder and Despair by Richard Parkin

A Boy in a Park: Tales of Wonder and Despair by Richard Parkin
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Middle Grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery, Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Full Length (188 pages)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The naive, misguided rascals in this charming collection of short stories wear their hearts on grubby, unwashed sleeves. From the boy who masters the art of conducting herons to the boy who just wants to be left to his daydreams, they long for a better life only to be led astray by talking animals, charismatic strangers, and their own too vivid imaginations.

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It was easy to forget that these tales were about ten separate boys because every one of them had the same naive, mischievous, and insatiably curious personality. Not only that, the background details of their lives were either nonexistent or so vague that one boy’s life story often blended into the next. Even their names were a mystery. I’ve never read a collection like this and truly enjoyed jumping from one world to the next while knowing that the protagonists would always be comfortingly predictable.

One thing I do wish the author had been more clear about were the time periods everything was set in. Some characters seemed to live centuries ago when orphans were left to live on the streets in large cities and fended for themselves from very tender ages. Other characters had a much more modern feel to them. Even these were educated guesses, though, as the narrator was always reluctant about explaining background information clearly. That made it hard at times to picture who the protagonists were and why they were so alone in the world.

There were so many genres represented in this book that I’d be hard-pressed to narrow it down to only one. Some of the boys lived in gentle fantasy worlds. Others were more firmly rooted in the horror, paranormal, or mystery genres. It was pretty interesting to move between all of these different types of storytelling as well to shift from what appeared to be the past and the present.

A Boy in a Park: Tales of Wonder and Despair was a mesmerizing collection that I’d recommend to anyone who loves being given a lot of freedom to come up with their own interpretations about what’s happening in a plot.

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