Monday, March 7, 2016

A Collection of Children's Books

PaddingtonPaddington by Michael Bond
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

* * * The following three books were read & reviewed by me & my niece Emma * * *

A classic for the ages!...that completely fell on deaf ears.

Perhaps the issue is that the ears are new and not British? I thought this would be a grand hit with my young niece, but it turned out to be a dud. She couldn't get through it quick enough. Granted, there was a swimming pool awaiting with her name on it, but still, I don't think this book would've gone over well even without the extraneous distraction.

I was quite looking forward to it, having never read this famed story, but even I have to admit it plodded along rather slowly and with little reward. My British-born friends laughingly call me more "British" than them and since everything about Paddington Bear is very Britishy (even though the bear himself comes from Darkest Peru), I still had to concede to Emma's obvious boredom. Mishaps with tea time jam were the most enjoyment we could wring from this and it just wasn't cutting the mustard...however, if it cut the cheese we would've been rolling on the floor in stitches.

Never has Emma pressured me to skip lines and whole pages quite like she did with Paddington, so the needle on the Emma-o-meter never got remotely close to "amused".

Journey (Journey Trilogy, #1)Journey by Aaron Becker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We LOVED Journey!!! We loved everything about it!

Usually reading time is an Emma and me thing, but even Tita Cherry (my wife/Emma's aunt) got in on this one. All three of us sat around the dining room table, not reading the wordless pages, yet fully enthralled by this wonderful adventure of a girl escaping loneliness and the doldrums of daily life with a stick of magic chalk. She draws up a boat or magic carpet or whatever, and off we go into a fantastical land of fairy forests, castles and steampunky airships. We excitedly guessed what the girl was drawing next and lingered lovingly over the lavish illustrations, reveling in the merest of details.

This book isn't an entirely original idea, but it is very well executed. The scenes are vibrant. The full spread, and sometimes double spread illustrations are highly detailed. And yet, the funny thing is, much of this is in drab colors. A vivid red is used to indicate the magic items the girl has drawn. Otherwise nothing more than a touch of gold here or a highlighted gleam of light there are used to transform the dull landscape into something living and vaguely mysterious.

Emma isn't terribly sexist (on the other hand just recently she started a "NO BOYS ALLOWED!" club, though I think that was set up in hopes of luring in the boys with reverse psychology), but the fact that the main character is a girl might have increased her interest in Journey. I know I was happy to see a girl as the hero of the story, taking matters into her own hands, going on adventures, etc. I don't think the world needs another wallflower girl, so anything that nudges Emma away from the shy, second class citizenship so many women are cast into is all right by me!


Dragon Quest (Winx Club)Dragon Quest by Mary Tillworth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Emma held this up and said she wanted to get it from the other end of the kids' section, I thought it said "Drag Queen" at first glance. I don't think I can be blamed. I mean, look at that fairy on the cover!

Luckily I was mistaken. Unluckily the reality is just as bad. The fairy is beyond Barbie. Her body shape is ridiculous. The eyeliner, mini-skirt and heels all make her seem more prepared for clubbing rather than questing. Fine. I've seen Bratz and its like before. I know modern animators are making even toddler characters into full-lipped, buxom mannequins. But I really was not okay with the level of coquettishness the fairy was displaying in this book. Too many vacant, finger-to-the-lip stares are used to show her "thinking". Too many knock-kneed girly stances to show defenseless vulnerability for a girl who can shoot fireballs.

The dragons were drawn pretty scary though. Yep, that's all I can say about it.

Emma liked it. Of course she would, it's what she's being brought up upon. Bugs Bunny in drag was the most sexual my cartoons got. This is a whole other world.

Reading level wise, this is listed as a "Step 2". Emma, 6 and heading into 1st grade soon, fought her way through half the book before tiring, at which point I took over and finished this damn thing as fast as I could.

I won't give Dragon Quest a low rating just because I don't approve of the minxy main character. The little girl this was aimed at liked the story well enough, though even she was all that excited about it.

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