At first glance you may think Imagia and the Magic Pearls: Tales from the Mapmaker is a knock-off of the recent Disney princess hit movie, The Princess Frog. While both princesses are African-American the bulk of the stories are very different from one another.
I think it's great that the country is getting a bigger dose of diverse leading ladies, and this book gives you another option aside from the already popular Disney movie. While the book has some great ideas behind it, I doubt that this book will become a household name or a classic read.
I found myself, at times, just wanting the book to be over with. Tarver spent a lot of time developing his characters and describing the story, almost at a point where it hindered the actual plot and story line of the book. While I enjoy reading about how the wind gushes I don't need to know what color every flower, every blade of grass is.
The plot of the book was decent and for the most part kept me involved in the characters once I got past the initial outpouring of adjectives. Tarver takes you on an adventure with birthday girl Imagia as she leaves the safe confines of her castle walls to explore. Along the way she meets different characters, some good, some evil, and ultimately Imagia finds that she's very special in many ways.
The villian Baddora reminded me a lot of the witch from The Wizard of Oz, brewing up plans and sending her minions out to get the good girl. The story line and illustrations where Baddora battles against Imagia and her friends make this piece of literature something I may caution against reading to a child under seven or so. Also, in my opinion, because of said "scary" sections, this may not be a great bedtime story book, rather something you'd read to a child during the day.
Don't get me wrong, the book is not all bad, I liked that the story was not your "cookie cutter" tale and more of a fantasy. I also enjoyed the illustrations by the author, Monroe Tarver, I liked how you could view them in both black and white and color throughout the book.
Tarver also came up with some fun pieces to add to this story, including silly and helpful creatures and a creative pearl game.
Overall, if you can get past the wordiness, don't mind a slow beginning, and your child isn't scared by villains, then you may want to add this book to your collection for some diversity, since it's not that expensive. But I have a feeling if you wait a little longer there will be a surplus of really great diverse books, movies, and cartoons, featuring ethnic characters available.