In August 2023, I received an email from publicist Simone Jung at Books Forward, "a full-service author publicity and book marketing firm." She'd read my review of Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton and mentioned that she "wanted to share with [me] an epic adventure featuring a very famous groundhog." Simone provided a great summary of The Great Weather Diviner, and I said yes, as long as I could get a physical copy of the book "to preserve the integrity of my eyes," since I am an editor.
I was thrilled when the book arrived. I received more than I had anticipated—two bookmarkers, four stickers, and a poster of the main character, Junior.
The authors of The Great Weather Diviner, Rob Long and Andrew Dolberg, put a lot of care and consideration into creating this effectual story, including their decision to commission Madison Blake for the cover, who captured the essence of each character remarkably well.
This book cover is eye-catching, with the red-eyed antagonist looming over the main character—our protagonist, Junior, who is front and center—alongside his two friends, Lyra and Jill.
When a child or parent sees The Great Weather Diviner on the shelf at their local bookstore, it'll be difficult not to pick it up and read the book blurb, which is also enticing.
This thought-provoking middle-grade fantasy novel begins with Lord Phillip reading his son, Junior, a bedtime story, which provides readers with pertinent information regarding the history of Punxsutawney in the opening scene, including that of the Guardians, who, alongside Junior's grandfather, have been celebrated over the years by townsfolk for saving Punxsutawney from destruction.
Junior's grandfather is his hero, and he looks up to his father, the current Weather Diviner. Though Junior isn't a child anymore, he and his father agree that Junior just isn't ready to learn what it takes to become a great Weather Diviner.
However, after Lord Phillip unwittingly reveals certain information to his son, and a flood devastates the entire town of Punxsutawney, Junior sets out to find the Guardians. From everything his father has told him about these gallant heroes, they can surely help, right?
Junior learns a lot on his travels and meets new and interesting characters, some of whom he'd never seen the likes of before, like a bright pink bird! What Junior learns during his weeks-long journey will forever change the course of his future. With this said, his character development is by far the furthest reaching of all the characters—and rightly so; he is the main character, after all. Junior starts out as a bored little groundhog, who doesn't care to grow up just yet; and slowly, he embraces his birthright. While you may be thinking, "Oh no, spoiler alert," I can assure you, it is not. Everyone knows who Punxsutawney Phil is, and this is his origin story.
From tunnel collapses to avalanches, this story is full of action and adventure. The Great Weather Diviner is also filled with love of family and friendships old and new, as well as a wake-up call to stop trying to conquer nature and instead live alongside it, and be thankful for the gifts our planet provides us.
While the target audience for The Great Weather Diviner is middle grade—ages eight to twelve—I believe the language used throughout the book is more appropriate for older audiences. This might just be a blessing, though, because parents and children can take turns reading to one another, providing the perfect opportunity for young readers to learn new words, as well as an appreciation for their natural surroundings.
If it weren't for the fact that this book was not line or copy edited, I would sing its praises even louder. It's a great coming-of-age story with overall themes of inclusiveness and environmental issues like "climate change, without being heavy handed and overshadowing a very compelling narrative," says one Goodreads reviewer.