Today’s book review is for Muddled-Up Farm, written by Mike Dumbleton, illustrated by Jobi Murphy published by Star Bright Books. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Muddled-Up Farm begins with a promising start. With vibrantly colored illustrations, rhyming text, and silly premise, it drew me into the zany world of Muddled-Up Farm. The big problem was that when I got to the last page I was left wondering “where’s the rest of the book?”
Dumbleton’s writing has a strong rhythm. The rhymes are predictable, thus making many of the jokes predictable, but that doesn’t seem like much of an issue for the target audience. While I was reading the text, I could almost hear it set to music, like some old folk song. It’s got a lively beginning and a humorous climax, but the resolution was completely omitted. I kept trying to turn the final page, convinced that surely there had to be more text. But there was not.
As mentioned earlier, Murphy’s illustrations are vibrantly colored. The farm animals are all rendered in a cartoon style that fits the mood of the book quite well. I particularly enjoyed some of their facial expressions. On the other hand, I felt that many of the pictures of the farm inspector were poorly executed. Although Murphy uses the same black outlines and flat patches of color in all of the illustrations, at times the farm inspector seems to have been rendered in a different style than the animals. One image in particular that didn’t work for me was when the farm inspector turns red-faced and angry.
The book has a middling design. The first seven pages of the story were actually quite nicely designed. And then the seemingly random changes in design began. It made sense to change some of the page layouts once the farm inspector arrived on the scene, because the narrative style shifted at that point, too. Before that point, though, the changes gave a visual signal that something about the text was changing–even though that wasn’t the case.
As a result, Muddled-Up Farm gets 2 out of 5 stars. For what it was, it was fun–but it definitely came across as incomplete. All other criticisms aside, it’s hard to like a book when it’s missing its ending.
You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.