This 1933 hardcover found at a book sale seemed like a sure winner. Published by the Junior Literary Guild, an early book club for children with many titles I admire, and a glance through found many excellent illustrations by Illingworth. I thought it well worth reading. Sadly, the writing by Akers is quite bad. It hardly seems worth detailing the many ways in which it’s bad, but let’s just say Dwight Akers was not an author well suited to this kind of fantasy, and probably not well suited to writing for kids at all. The book is full of sappy off-putting verse, most of which I skipped, and the remaining story of three boys, a talking mule, and anthropomorphic animals of all kinds, has many faults, but the most annoying is, it’s written down to the audience, not from the heart, but in the spirit of, “here’s a funny, cute thing for the kiddies.” Akers wrote a few other books that were not fantasy, and those may have been better, I don’t know. If I ever see one I will not look at it.
The illustrations, though are excellent, and kept me at least skimming the story and turning the pages. I’ve looked up Leslie Gilbert Illingworth (1902-1979), and he was a prolific political cartoonist for British papers. THIS site has over 4,000 of them. He seems to have illustrated only a few books. How he came to do so for this mess of a story is a mystery.
You’re not likely to find this long out of print tome, but if you see it, enjoy the illustrations, which are highly recommended, but do not read the book.