Aimed at pre-teen readers, A Green Fantasy is about 10-year-old Ruthie’s school project on Noah’s Ark. Ruthie solicits the help of her older brother, Dan, and their cousin, Jack, a university student living with the family. Together, the three of them try to recreate the technicalities of the ark — what it looked like, how it was configured and where provisions were stored. “This book endeavors to suggest what took place in the building of the Ark and the way in which it functioned as a totally enclosed ecological system,” Chayen writes in her preface. “I do not claim that this is how Noah’s Ark was. This is how it could have been.” This is the first foray into children’s literature for Chayen, a retired barrister and criminologist whose last published book was titled “Persistent Criminals,” a subject closer to her area of professional expertise. From the beginning, the three main characters in A Green Fantasy feel wooden. Their dialogue is not engaging, nor does it feel true or real to the age of the characters she depicts. Perhaps it’s not supposed to, given the fact that this is a self-described fantasy. But I suspect the fantasy aspect centers around the reconstruction of the ark, and that if any part of the story is supposed to feel real, it would be the characters engaged in that reconstruction. If you have a deep interest in how Noah’s Ark may have functioned, this book will likely hold some appeal, drawing from dreams, books and the bible to imagine how the ark might have looked and functioned. It’s a complex subject and one not lightly tackled. Chayen tries hard to capture the dynamics of Ruthie’s family as they work together and try to help each other, but ultimately, A Green Fantasy falls far short of an engaging, interesting read.
Lauren Kramer is a Vancouver-based journalist, wife, and mother with a lifelong passion for literature. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writing and reported from many corners of the world. Read more of her work at www.laurenkramer.net.