Easter: McEaster Valley
by Walter R. Hoge, DVM

"I was drawn to the valley as if it had something to offer and if I didn’t respond, I would never have another opportunity."

One early morning, the protagonist and his Labrador retriever took a walk in the Sierra foothills. He noticed an entrance into a beautifully lit valley. As he began traveling on the trail into the valley, he felt all his burdens lift and felt young and carefree. However, at some point, the path started to close in on him, and he was tripped up and rolled into a briar patch. Once free from the briars, he realized he was lost and could not locate his dog. The only direction he could go was forward. After many hours and several long naps, he escaped into an opening and was greeted by a reassuring bearded man. The man took him into a mountain cave that eventually opened and was lit as fantastically as the golden valley he had seen earlier. Here he encountered many people and animals living harmoniously and crafting candies and toys to give out once a year on a special day. The man made him a one-time offer to live there forever, always full of vitality and peace, and help take care of the animals. The man tossed and turned all night, thinking of the opportunity but also about his wife and young children. When he awoke, he was back where he was walking, and his Labrador was licking his face.

Hoge’s magical valley is the Easter version of Santa’s North Pole. Much of the tale is inspired by those Christmas books and television specials which give glimpses into the business of the elves but with a Spring-inspired point of view. There are moments where Hoge’s writing takes on a near-nonfiction tone reminiscent of the holiday classics made popular by Gail Gibbons. Hoge brings his more scientific approach to keeping all those delicious chocolates and other candies fresh and depicts an interesting rainbow-infused paint supply available to the toymakers and confectioners. Speaking of colors, the book includes several bold illustrations by Jebb Impok, which capture some of the delight and whimsy of Easter Valley and its offerings. In a bit of a reflective conclusion, the author engages the audience by speaking of the character’s loneliness once his kids have grown and moved away. He also wonders if he can find a way to revisit McEaster Valley.

Hoge’s writing is easy to follow, and the descriptions are done well without being excessive. Because of its length and often highly technical phrasing, it is difficult to determine the book’s exact audience. Passages such as “Thoughts of line breeding, cross-breeding, and inbreeding flowed through my mind, and I could only imagine the genetic combinations along with the viral components that could produce such an array of eggs” may prove to be too much for younger readers or listeners. Still, parents can obviously use the story and illustrations as the framework for spinning their own yarn about this magical place, adding more of the technical text as their children mature and are capable of discussions. Additionally, it gives them another story option to share when focusing on the more whimsical parts of Easter.

Return to USR Home