Friday, January 15, 2016

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly... Children's Stories That Draw Strong Good, Bad, or Ugly Feelings...

While I'm reading a long book, such as nonfiction BlabberMouth!, I tend to take short breaks away and read some other genre short stories, especially children's books. When I read most books, I take the author's decisions in writing their stories. I've found I cannot or will not do that for children's books. 

For me, children's books must be spotless--no I'm not talking about typos or grammar, although that is always important. What I'm most concerned about is the appropriateness of books for children. Children don't have a choice for what books are provided to them--most are bought as gifts or by parents or relatives. That means that the burden of determining possible impact on children must be the main reason for selection of books... 

This list reflects my thoughts based upon that premise. Thoughts, feedback would be appreciated... Disagree? Tell me why and let's talk about it...


Ok, so I was reading about bacteria and tooth decay and the movie title, The Good, Bad, and Ugly came to mind... Just like bacteria, book content can be good, bad, or ugly in what children may see or read in their books. So, the following are really comments and personal opinions about the books I've recently read...I am not going to review them, merely document the problems I discovered...if this helps writers and/or readers in thinking about what to look for in children's book, then I'll have achieved my Goal...

For clarity, I'm presenting the books in alphabetical sequence as opposed to good, bad, or ugly (gross)...














Ethan and Allen are Twins--This book is purely about twins and the first thing we see is what they looked like inside Mommy's tummy... and then age progression pictures. I felt like I, as an adult, was being told by a proud mother about her two twins. The content appeared to be totally inappropriate for young children and had little to offer other than pictures. The concept of twins' creating their own language was thrown in, but was certainly not really happening. Children would have to be old enough to develop a language that would be just between themselves.
Otherwise, it was merely repetition and the choice of wording for balloon, for instance, was clearly arbitrary by the writer. "Who is audience" is clearly an issue in this one...




My Name is Tzip - Again Point of view was totally confusing... Tzip in this book was supposedly to have these adult human thoughts as he casually walked around his neighborhood. A more age-appropriate book would have been to have a child walking with the cat and teaching the cat what he'd learned about crossing streets, etc. As it is now, the child would have to be perceptive enough to realize that he's being taught rules--or have an adult explain that the cat is doing it or just ignore the words and enjoy the cat pictures...

A side note, Kindle children's book really prevent the full benefit of stories since the writing rarely appears on the same page as the picture. There is no way to correlate the words together with the picture while the children are curiously engaged in seeing the individual picture items, including the main character, the cat... having to turn to another page, especially if the book is being read to the young child, inhibits the effect of the story. This book was well-written, but the point of the book and benefit for children escaped me...

Our Kindergarten This book could have been effective with an age-appropriate approach, since the children, the twins, were involved in many things that just seemed much more difficult than would be done in kindergarten.
What I found most disturbing was that there were no adults in the book...For instance, the children move from place to place, seemingly, without any supervision or teaching. One activity is related to an apparent field trip, where the children are seen walking to a museum. It seemed quite inappropriate to me to have children read this book, as it is presented, and decide to go on their own trip to the museum...Alone... Leaving the teacher out of a children's book about beginning school presented a situation that was not acceptable for me.

Reaching New Heights - One of the good ways to seek out new books is to identify authors about whom you've developed a good feeling. You can then pick and choose what your child might like of the books that author has available. Reaching New Heights is by an author I have previously read. She identifies and personalizes the main character with whom your child can relate and then creates a fun learning experience that may be, for instance, about feelings. In this book, Emma is becoming blue because she's comparing her talents with the other students in her class. You see, the class is going to be performing for the entire town! That can be scary! Children can feel good and recognize the talents of their peers while working in class together...But thoughts change drastically when many others will be watching and able to make comparison.
What special talent Emma discovered in herself wasn't as important as learning that we all have talents and they will be different from others... Effective children's book, in my opinion, always consider the situation from the point of view of the child--not the adult/writer...


               
The Danger Kids - I love action/adventure stories, but I recognize that we live in a dangerous culture that has progressively moved toward including our young children into what are really adult stories. I am aware that many feel the way I do; I therefore choose to share my opinions.

The Danger Kids is dangerous for children to read... First, the reading level for this book is 8-12 and I believe the writing style reflects that the characters are within that age range. I should immediately point out that the book is very well written and I would have enjoyed the book if I could get past the lack of age-appropriateness of the content.


Throughout the book the word danger is emphasized, almost to create a hype about what the children will get into. At first the main character suggests a club be formed--an adventure club. Through the book they play around with the chosen name of the club, which ultimately becomes The Danger Kids, based upon what the children had gotten involved with...


Very specifically, one of the children's mother was kidnapped. There is no immediate thought for the children to contact the police! They choose to find her themselves. Let me quickly point out that the criminals are adults and before long, one of the children's house is set of fire and her mother was almost lost in the fire... Again, there was no mention that 911 be called and the fire reported... 


The children "saved the day..." Some have referred to this book as similar to the Hardy Boys, but those boys were 17 and 18...What they might get into versus what children between 8 and 12 SHOULD be quite different. That series also had parents actively involved in the boys lives while there was only 1 comment by a parent in this book, albeit not a guiding teaching one, since the woman's life had just been saved.


Yes, the police ultimately get involved, but the children's activities are not really affected by the police's directions.


If parents do not see that children at this age are still in a developmental stage and their actions monitored...well, I can only believe that America is sending the wrong message through books, movies and other media. I could never support a writer who pits children against adult criminals in dangerous situations...


This book is rejected purely on the technical presentation of the book in ebook form. Specifically, the page size is about 3 by 6 inches. The words are so tiny that, even with glasses, I couldn't read the words. I have had writers come back to me that they couldn't correct the problem...My response, don't sell it until the purchaser can use the product. In this case, the first page was large enough to read, but once you move on to the rhyming, words are not large enough to be read... and the letter-size ability of Kindle to increase size of words does not work with the whole picture and words...being included in the page. Note: I have seen other books with this type of format which have been adequately sized for a reader.

Since the book received a high rating from a major reviewer, I can only lament the lack of oversight to ensure the quality of the presentation for all readers or should have a notice that it can only be used on a specific ebook reader. This feedback is provided for consumers in relation only to format.


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