Part 3: “Over The Tree, Dumb Shit!”

Chapter Five – No Trespassing

Picture of a scary-looking fallen tree that looks like a giant hand.

Maya finds Joey and is very relieved. He’s looking at a sign that’s almost rusted away, but they can still make out that it’s a standard government-issued no trespassing sign that states violators will be prosecuted. And this next exchange is so amazing that I’m not going to just quote it, I’m going to scan the page, because otherwise you’ll never believe it actually exists:

Right. So I have to say this is the first book I’ve ever seen that’s marketed towards 8-to-12-year-olds that involves the young hero calling the young heroine a ‘dumb shit’. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it’s further proof of Gloria Tesch’s incompetence – you don’t put things like that in children’s books, not if you want to be successful – but at the same time, this has just become my favorite quote of the entire book.

I’m also going to point out, for the only time in the book, how annoying it is when Tesch lives out the comma before the second quotation mark in dialogue.

Of course, this is immediately followed by my second-favorite quote of the series, which is amazing, but it also has the side effect of deepening my hatred of Joey. If Tesch was setting him up to be a villain, or to be messily killed, this might be tolerable, but he’s supposed to be one of the heroes. Maybe she’s setting him up for a Eustace Scrubb-like transformation.

Anyway, Maya climbs across the tree which has fallen across the fence and is acting like a bridge. They walk around for an hour and a half and find nothing. It’s very boring. Then they see a hill in the distance. Joey takes off for it and Maya follows. When she arrives, Joey is gone again, but she sees seven doves looking at her. Immediately she flashes back to the hotel guard (doorman, Tesch) who told her that she’s very special to the birds. Now, if a bird, or some random mysterious stranger had come up and told her that she was special, I might buy it, but a hotel doorman? Please, he has no reason to think that, nor should his opinion be considered valid.

Maya suddenly realizes that her brother has vanished, so she stops thinking about the doves. Then she looks at the horizon and it’s so pretty that she forgets about her brother. No, seriously, these two things are a sentence apart and happen within seconds of each other. I wonder if Maya is ADD?

Apparently there’s a narrow opening somewhere around here, Tesch describes it poorly enough that I have no idea what this place looks like. But Maya squeezes through it and finds herself in a cave. She screams for Joey and he’s there. Maya wants to leave, it being a dark and scary cave, but Joey wants to come back the next day and explore. But they’ll be prepared then. So they head home.

I’m adding a drink for each punctuation error a chapter contains, because they are really starting to piss me off.

Drinks: 6

Chapter Six – Friday Morning

So they wake up Friday morning and start getting ready for their excursion. Per the preface, it’s November, and both of them are in school. Why do they have the day off instead of being in school? This is something that should be explained and it’s just ignored.

Maya tells Joey she doesn’t know what to pack. Joey looks at her like she’s an idiot and asks if she’s serious, and for once, I’m on Joey’s side: I’ve packed many a backpack for epic adventures, and it’s never hard to find things to bring with you.

Joey tells her to bring an extra pair of clothes and a blanket. Maya asks why she needs that, as they obviously aren’t going to stay in the cave for days.

“You never know what can happen”, Joey said, “Maybe something ‘big’ will happen and if we are not prepared, we might be in trouble or maybe we find some treasures or underwater rivers. Who knows where this adventure can lead us?” (page 32)

I’m guessing that Tesch calls this ‘subtle foreshadowing’. And yes, she really does put the commas and periods outside of the quotation marks, and yes, it’s very annoying to read.

Maya goes back into her room and packs…a change of clothes and a blanket, proving she has no imagination. She stops in the kitchen to make some sandwiches and grab a bag of apples, they tell their parents they’re heading to the beach, and head out the door.

So they go to the beach and cross the fence and reach the hill and see the doves and go inside the cave and take out their flashlights and reach a hall filled with stalagmites.

Drinks: 6

Chapter Seven – The Stalagmite Statue

Tesch misspells Joey’s name. As ‘Joeys’. Yeah.

Joey starts talking about how in science class he learned how rocks are formed, and they talk about the differences between stalagmites and stalactites, and honestly, it just feels like Gloria Tesch masturbating with her science knowledge. I don’t care. I really don’t.

They go further into the cave and find a number of tunnels and choose to go into the middle one. Without marking their way. These kids are just asking for death.

There’s a crack in the ceiling and it lets in a beam of light that illuminates a stalagmite statue. This reminds me of Balin’s Tomb in Moria. But it’s very bright and the statue is of a mermaid. Joey is ecstatic.

Joey yelled, “This could make me rich! I told you so that we will find a treasure, a chamber or a door to the ‘unknown’!” (page 37)

He didn’t say that, and I rather doubt that a stone statue is going to make him rich.

Joey grabs the statue and pulls on it until he breaks it free from the rock. Sorry, but I don’t believe that a statue that has been carved out of solid rock would be able to be broken free by a snot-nosed fourteen-year-old. Also, from the picture and the description, it sounds far too big to carry, but I’ll accept that both of those could be inaccurate.

As soon as it breaks free the ground starts shaking like an earthquake and a hole opens up in the wall. Maya tells Joey to put the statue back in a bit of horribly written dialogue, and finally he does. The walls stop shaking. I’m really not sure how removing a statue can trigger an earthquake and then putting it back will stop said earthquake, but science has never really been my strong suit.

That was an absolutely incredible and a mysterious event which both of them could not explain (page 38).

No shit, Sherlock? Maya turns towards Joey and he’s vanished through the hole in the wall.
Drinks: 10

Chapter Eight – Eyes, Ears, and Voices

Maya goes through the hole and sees Joey. They’re not on the coast anymore, they’re in a prehistoric jungle. I think Tesch has been reading Journey To The Center Of The Earth a bit too often. Then again, the back of this brick states that they find a “World between the Worlds”, so it’s also possible that they’re not actually beneath Florida at the moment, they’ve already been magicked over to the new place.

A voice suddenly asks her why she wants to step on it. Maya thinks it’s Joey, which leads to some momentary confusion, before the voice speaks up:

Every living creature in this world has a soul and everything what lives has eyes and ears and a voice!” (page 40)

Except for moles. They don’t have eyes. And, y’know, worms. Cave fish. Cave crickets. I could go on but I think I’ve made my point.
But they look around and Joey spots a grasshopper. Then Maya falls down. Randomly. Not for any reason. Didn’t trip over anything, wasn’t pushed, didn’t slip, just fell.

F L O P’ … Maya fell down to the ground right on her face.

“Ouch…” and when she looked up there was a huge grasshopper sitting directly on her nose (page 40).

Maybe she has inner ear problems. And yes, ‘F L O P’ is exactly like that on the page.

The grasshopper jumps down. Maya and the grasshopper converse. At first she things it’s Joey playing one of his tricks, because Joey has a side job as a ventriloquist. But eventually she realizes that she has entered a place where grasshoppers can talk with wisdom and understanding. I’m not sure why she thinks this, because the grasshopper hasn’t displayed any wisdom or understanding, or anything beyond what a parrot could do. Then again, Maya isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. She might not even be a spoon.*

Drinks: 10

*Terry Pratchett quote. Credit where credit’s due.

Chapter Nine – The Grasshopper

I haven’t mentioned this before but I really hate the length of these chapters. This last one was two and a half Tesch pages, which makes less than one real page. And there’s no reason for all of them.

“This grasshopper is even smarter than my science teacher. He has a lot of wisdom,” Maya said (page 42).

BULL. SHIT. Not that I think that high school science teachers are anything to brag about, but this grasshopper has said maybe six sentences and he has displayed a complete lack of knowledge about the physical world. Unless we come to find out that in Maradonia worms have eyes. And souls. Somehow I doubt it, though.

Joey blinked his eyes several times in disbelief but when he understood that this grasshopper in his hand was real, he smiled and he was happy that he found a pet, a companion, who liked it to sit on his shoulder…constantly talking to him (page 43).

See, I have a problem with this. You’ve just gotten through saying he’s smarter than your science teacher, that he has a soul, and he’s immediately been delegated to pet status. He’s not a real person anymore, he’s a dog. It’s extremely insulting to treat someone with humanlike intelligence as a pet. But I’m sure this grasshopper won’t have any problem being Saphira’d. Thank you, Christopher Paolini, for giving us a name for this.

Also – the grasshopper hasn’t given any indication that he would like to be a pet, likes to talk, likes to sit on anyone’s shoulder – nothing. Does Tesch really not read back over anything that she writes? Does she honestly not even think about the words that she’s setting down on the page?

Maya went through a shock situation! She was not sure if this was the real world of the dream world (page 43).

I….there are no words for this. I dunno. Make fun of it yourself. She went through a shock situation? Sorry, I understand what each of those words individually means, but put together like that they don’t make any fucking sense.

Maya looks around and sees trees and then she sees the seven doves. She points them out to Joey, who is ignoring her and talking to his grasshopper familiar, who he has named Hoppy. Which is a really fucking stupid name. If I had a grasshopper familiar, I would name him ‘Brian’, or maybe ‘Guinevere’ if it was female. Hoppy? That’s just unimaginative. Also, the fact that Joey has named it means that he didn’t have a name before, which doesn’t really sound like an intelligent, soul-carrying creature to me.

Incidentally, the dialogue over the next few pages is absolutely atrociously written, I could just quote all of it and let it stand on its own, but I won’t. It sounds awkward and stilted and like it was lifted from ‘Dick and Jane’ if the author of ‘Dick and Jane’ enjoyed raping the English language.

To summarize: Hoppy says that there’s a lagoon in the center of this land. Lagoons are typically at the edge of the land and next to the ocean. Anyway, Hoppy tells them that they ‘must’ to go the lagoon, because it ‘might’ be their destiny. I’m getting conflicting signals here. Also, I really hate Destiny. Really, really, hate it.

Joey can tell what time it is by the position of the sun in the sky. Quite the Boy Scout. He whips out a compass and says that they have plenty of time to reach the lagoon. Which doesn’t really make sense, because they have no idea how far it is to this lagoon. It might be a month’s journey or more. Also, I would really like to see the compass not work properly for navigation, because this is a totally different world, and there’s no reason why our tools would work there. But I’m about 100% certain that Tesch has never even though of that. Being 13, and stupid.

Hoppy wants to come with them, and Joey says that he can come along, and stay in Joey’s pocket, or ride on his shoulder. Very benevolent of him. Time passes. They walk along. The sun remains in the same spot. Hoppy explains that the sun always shines, even at night, when it’s just slightly dimmer. Also in this place you never get really hungry or tired. So I’m guessing that the two sandwiches and the apples they packed will last for their entire journey.

Drinks: 4


  12 Responses to “Part 3: “Over The Tree, Dumb Shit!””

  1. Cave crickets? Camel crickets? They do actually have eyes. Moles also do; small ones.

  2. To be fair, Tesch /was/ 13. Most 13 year olds are pretty terrible writers, and I put more blame on the parents for this, because they got it self-published and /then/ promoted it all over the place. That is not being supportive, that is humiliating your daughter when she (hopefully) improves enough to realize how much those books she wrote when she was 13 sucked. I’m actually sort of impressed she was willing to put in the time to write this much, even if the quality is extremely bad.

  3. My question is how is the compass helping Joey figure out how long it will take to get somewhere? Compasses just tell the user which way is North.

  4. “Shut up and get yo ass over the damn fence!”

    They better trademark this one as well, or I am stealing it.

  5. Some of them have Tesla meters, which could tell you how far you were from the magnetic pole if you knew the size and field strength of the planet you were on. (IRL they’re also useful for detecting when an artificial magnetic pole such as a power meter is leading you astray.)

  6. Friday was the day after Thanksgiving. That’s why there wasn’t school.

  7. Of course, the odds of a Tesla field working if you:

    A) Don’t know the size of the planet
    B) Don’t know the strength of the magnetic field.

    So I assume Joey pulled this statement out of his ass.

  8. If the sun shines even at night, how can Joey tell what time is it “by the position of the sun in the sky”? That’s contradicting.

  9. This book is making me go through a disgust situation

  10. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to use the line in real life, but I did and it made me happy. I was walking my dog in a nature park the day after a storm and a tree (not a very large one) had fallen onto the path. My dog stopped, trying to figure out if she should go over or under it. I looked at her and said “Hop over the tree, dumb shit!”.

  11. Usually the Friday after thanksgiving is a holiday. Still horribly written, but their being out of school isn’t that weird.

  12. Yes, but that means that the previous day (when they spent hours wandering around some random beach) was Thanksgiving day. Did their parents not notice Maya and Joey’s complete absence all day on Thanksgiving day?