Jenna’s Journey

Author: Karen Kelly Boyce

Publisher: Pen it! Publications

Age Range: 10 -14

Karen Kelly Boyce has written a colourful, fanciful and fresh novel that will appeal to a wide age range.  Although aiming at the tween to early teen market, this book will be enjoyed by anyone who loves well written fantasies in which the main character must journey in a strange, dreamy landscape in order to find the truth.

How to describe this story?  It’s kind of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda’ meets ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with a large dose of the Wizard of Oz thrown in.

Initially, I had a little trouble placing the genre – I wasn’t sure how to respond to the tragedy of the main character.  But by end of Chapter Two, I could recognize a Roald Dahl style turn of events when the larger than life, and thoroughly reprehensible Aunty Bertha burst onto the scene. And just like Harry Potter had to sleep under the stairs, poor Jenna finds herself stuck out in the laundry to sleep in a cot. I must say there is something wonderfully ‘British’ about the way Karen Kelly Boyce has put this entertaining book together.

When I read Karen Kelly Boyce’s ‘Sisters of the Last Straw’ series, I couldn’t help thinking that it would make a great TV series.  And the same thing happened as I read Jenna’s Journey.  Boyce seems to be able to evoke the most brilliantly vivid visual imagery.  Her landscapes come to life.  Imaginative lands with green skies and blue grass abound throughout Jenna’s Journey.  Trees with crystal leaves burst into thousands of butterflies that flutter about the sky.  One of the most beautiful scenes was the cleansing crystal waterfall that washed the girls clean in rainbow hues of cascading water.  Reading this book is such a delight!

Catholic themes are rich throughout the story.  The characters are tested throughout the journey by ‘Abaddon’ who really is a bad one.  He worms his way into every small crack of doubt, or resentment, or negativity and fear. Our characters find freedom in forgiveness, and are saved by their mysterious companion, Francesco on more than one occasion.  My absolute favourite scene was when the girls are saved from the den of doubt by a sword wielding White Knight who prances about lopping off snake’s heads and crushing serpent’s heads with bare feet.  The White Knight removes a shiny helmet to reveal Our Lady of Grace, dead serpent under her foot, pointing the way to the right path.

There are some hefty Catholic theological truths that are served up in this surprisingly rich book.  The story kept me reading right up until the final sentence.  I loved seeing Aunty Bertha reappear at the end just before she takes off with hubby to holiday in Europe.  And poor whiny cousin Emily is dumped at boarding school with Jenna.  I was looking forward to seeing what really dire consequences would be dished out to Aunty Bertha Blossom.  But it was still fun to see a newly reunited Mr and Mrs Blossom disappearing down the hallway on their way to the airport.  Maybe their ultimate punishment is each other – who knows?

There is something timeless about this book.  I sincerely hope it is a successful publication.  Give this book a read – and keep reading up until the final five words.  Stunning!

You can buy Jenna’s Journey HERE.

Homeschool and Teacher Ideas.

Artists – let them loose!  Ask students to draw, paint, design, imagine and create one of the wonderful landscapes from this book.  Make up your own fantasy land and create it.

  • I would then ask students to orally describe their world – it’s features, why they chose the colours and features, the symbolism, how it relates to the story.

As the characters helped each other they physically grew in stature and age.  How do we ‘grow’ when we help each other?

  • Write down examples in your own life of when you could/would
    • Encourage someone
    • Stay with someone (who is sad or in trouble)
    • Look for someone
    • Defend someone
    • Save someone.

For older students: On Page 170, the red bead reveals how Mary was made our heavenly mother.

  • Read the Gospel Verse John 19 23 – 29
  • Read 973 – 975 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
  • Write your responses to these questions/statements:

What was Mary’s “Fiat”?

Mary continues to exercise her maternal role in heaven to members of the Body of Christ.  What do you think that means?

Think of ways in your own life that you can follow Mary’s example.

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