Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age
By Dave Zeltser
Expected publication September 9, 2014 by Egmont USA
Lug just wants to paint. Unfortunately, that is not a proper caveman activity, so he must keep his art hidden. When Lug is banished, he discovers some kindred spirits and, together, they must use their knowledge of the changing environment to unite their clans if they hope to survive.
I downloaded the galley of this one because I thought it could be fun. It's recommended for fans of Ice Age, which I enjoyed, and as usual, I'm always looking to get more middle-grade reading in. This book just missed the mark for me.
I think my main issue is that I'm not sure what audience this book is for. It's listed as a middle-grade title, which is a bit of an amorphous category but which I usually think of as 9-12 or 10-14 years old. In some ways, I think this book falls into that category. The humor mostly fits in that age range, and some of the subtleties of the plot would set it there as well. However, this felt much more to me like an early elementary book, one for ages 7-9, more along the lines of Captain Underpants and his ilk. It's nearly 200 pages, which makes it a little long for this younger age range, but it is also illustrated (though the illustrations did not appear in my galley). Though I couldn't be sure without seeing a finished copy, I also think the font is larger, more akin to an early elementary book than a middle-grade one.
So why does all this matter? Well, it doesn't really for the right reader. But I found it just a bit irksome that I couldn't pinpoint the audience for this one. However, it's not my only qualm with the book either. Nothing about the story felt fully developed. Lug's painting is perhaps the thing explained most clearly, but even that could have done with more development. His banishment happens rather abruptly, as does most of what follows and the ending feels quite rushed and unsatisfying. I was really struck by the idea of a kid facing the dawn of the Ice Age, being the only one who recognizes it for what it is and how he would handle that. Unfortunately, this book didn't quite deliver on that idea. I wanted more than this book offered, though I think it will definitely find fans (the illustrated novel is, as I'm sure you know, very hot right now).
Thanks to the publisher for a digital advance reader's copy, provided via Edelweiss.