The Miller Family Album
by Joseph Cognard
Illustrated by Gabriella Cognard
and Karen Mullarkey
Middle Grade Fiction
Billy is more than a little nervous. Even with all the excitement of his first "kids only" camp out, there is something truly bothering him. Listen to the fire crackle as the Miller children, in their campfire tradition, each tell a story. Will the fire last till Billy can fall asleep? Worse yet, what will happen when it is his turn to tell a story? Lastly, why won’t the fly and mosquito buzzing around the campfire leave him alone?
As in traditional Twilight Zone episodes, that the author grew up with, Mr. Cognard creates three unique and unpredictable stories, that both children and adults will all enjoy.
The book is packed with illustrations by Gabriella Cognard, a tween with artistic flair well beyond her years.
I love the setting of this book, a camping trip in the backyard with a young boy, Billy, nervous to sleep outside for the very first time. Of course, the campfire is there, and this book concerns the tales told around it.
Billy is like many other kids who are ready to brave this adventure for the first time, and it's easy to sympathize with him. He's scared of the dark--a fear many kids face. His older brother and sister are there with him, making for a wonderful family round-up. In other words, it's an experience kids can relate to.
There are three stories, all very different from the other, and each told by one of the three kids. Unlike a reader might think, this isn't about scary stories but rather ones to simply enjoy. It's easy to get lost in each one, while experience an entire different plot just as each of the kids is different in themselves. The break down into the stories also makes it easy to read only one at a time (as a read-aloud) or come back to the favorite one and read it again later on.
Even thought there are three separate stories, there's a lovely character arc as Billy overcomes his fears and, in a way, matures just a bit.
There are lovingly made illustrations sprinkled throughout the book, which make it that much more enticing to read.
Summed up: This is a nice read, which can work as a read-aloud or read-alone. The stories are perfect for kids and build a nice atmosphere while subtly presenting a message. And it's great for this time of year (summer vacation) where kids will be dreaming of tents, sleeping under the stars and campfires.