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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Kim, Leon, and the Sky Path to Africa is an historical fiction/animal adventure novel for children and preteens written by Barnaby Allen. Kim’s school holidays were mired in endless rainstorms, and going outside was not even to be considered without arming himself with his wellies and assorted winter and rain gear. It might be different, he considered, were there brothers, sisters or friends clamoring about the house, but he was on his own. His parents were away that day. Kim had already played in enough muddy puddles and sploshed about the yard during the preceding days of deluge; it had gotten way past tired.
Leon was an aging donkey who had been a family pet in India in his younger days. When his family moved back to England, they arranged for Leon to come with them. Now those children were adults, and no one had time for him. It was determined that Leon would best serve out his days on a farm, and so, Kim’s dad arrived home one day with the donkey in his horsebox. Leon wasn’t much interested, however, in doing anything except standing around from what Kim could tell, but watching him in the rain, halfheartedly pulling at the damp and stale straw left in his paddock, caused a twinge of concern and compassion in Kim’s heart. Surely there was an apple or carrot he might find to cheer the aging donkey up a bit. But as he mentioned those treats to Leon, he was stunned to hear the donkey answer him. And so the donkey and boy began to explore a bit of each other’s worlds.
Kim, Leon, and the Sky Path to Africa is an interactive travel story that takes the characters and readers back in time to Africa during the time of the slavers. Along the way, readers are encouraged to draw what Kim sees, predict what he’ll be experiencing and act out situations from the story. I was immediately enchanted by the author’s gift for making his environments seem so real. You can feel that rain drumming on Kim’s windowpane, sense his feeling of isolation at the dreary week-long stay indoors, and share in his curiosity and sense of wonder as he takes a chance and decides to travel with Leon. Allen’s character grows as he encounters a different culture and discovers that initial impressions can often hide all manner of unsavory and unspeakable things. The Kim we see after his travels with Leon is older, seasoned and bigger somehow, and the reader can’t help but hope that this is only the first such adventure these two unlikely companions will embark upon. Kim, Leon, and the Sky Path to Africa is most highly recommended.