Recently, a friend of the blog/Papercutz representative shared an entire box of books with the ladies. We each grabbed a couple and will be submitting our reviews here. Looks like I’m up first!
Sybil the Backpack Fairy: Book 3 Aithor
Michel Rodrigue (Author), Manuela Razzi (Author), Antonello Delana (Illustrator)
Oh man, would you look at how excited everyone is on that cover? 8-year old Smalerie was gunning for this book: flying horses, fairies, hair in all the colors of the rainbow? Yes please! Now if only I could have managed to keep 30-something year old Smalerie out of this.
Quick Summary: Nina has a fairy that lives in her backpack. They have adventures that are fun, but can makes things a bit complicated for Nina. It’s ok though, because fairies are bitchin’ and like to dress like they are off to audition for a magical remake of Flashdance.
The Good Stuff: I have to admit that this is a pretty book to look at. All the characters faces are filled with huge expressions that read well and very clearly. This style also adds to the over all energy of the book, which is extremely high, almost like a sprint at times. Then again, I have a feeling that the abundant use of exclamation points added a lot to that as well.
As a main character, I liked Nina. She is plucky, brave, and makes attempts to keep her fairy grounded in what rules need to apply in the human world – mostly. As an added bonus, Nina takes boxing lessons, a fact established in one of the earlier books.
The Maybe-Not-As-Good: I feel the need to start this part with a disclaimer. When reviewing a book for kids, I never feel that I should be telling parents what their kids should and shouldn’t read. For me, any issues with the book are more talking points for a parent and his/her kids rather than an “avoid this book at all costs.” I might put up some caution tape, but rarely a red flag. My point is, parenting styles are a personal choice, so feel free to disagree. Also, I believe that kids are pretty clever and are often pinpointing a lot of the same issues we are.
For me personally, none of these things I am about to talk about seem like that big of a deal, but like I said, parents and their kids can judge for themselves. But in a world where movie reviews for kids have warnings that adults are seen consuming alcohol, perhaps someone might find this handy.
1) Nina’s erratic behavior leads her mom to take her to see a specialist. The joke is that Nina is fine, she is just dealing with a fairy. While this is a good scene for Nina to tell Sybil that all the magic stuff is a source of stress and that happens to a degree, the end result is that Sybil convinces her not to take it too seriously and then makes a bit of a joke about it by turning the pictures the Doctor asked Nina to draw into a Picasso painting. It’s normal for kids to be suspicious of Doctor types, but perhaps this isn’t the best example out there if a kid really could benefit from the help of a doctor or counselor.
2) Sybil does both Nina’s homework and corrects her schoolwork in class. 8 year old Smal said “Hell’s yeah!” Adult Smal said “Huh, but how is she going to learn anything without learning what she did wrong?!”
3) Nina fake cusses by using the old “@$!&*” method. Huh, who am I kidding? Old and Young Smalerie found this funny.
4) **Spoiler Alert** At the beginning of this book, Nina’s parents are not together. At one point Nina does say that her family isn’t how she would like it to be, and that is normal. What I did find odd was that once her father returns, Nina states how great it was to have a “real” family again. I think Nina needs a reminder that all families come in different shapes and sizes…
This book is recommended for 6-11 year olds. That’s a pretty big range there, so mileage may vary. I would lean towards the younger set.
8 year old Smalerie – 3.5 out of 5 Sparkly Unicorns, something to tide her over until she discovers Sailor Moon
30-something year old Smalerie – 3 out of 5 Mehs, cute enough but not for me anymore
Geronimo Stilton: We’ll Always have Paris (Vol. 11)
Geronimo Stilton (Author), Lorenzo de Pretto (Illustrator)
Summary: The Pirate Cats have gone back in time with a plan to change the past and make themselves rich and powerful in the future. Scaredy-pants jounalist Geronimo Stilton and his friends are off to Paris to stop them.
The Good Stuff: Um, everything? In fact, I was surprised by how charming I found this book. Geronimo is a great character in that he is dedicated, good, but also not perfect. Geronimo is a worrier and afraid of a lot of things. So he might complain a bit for humor’s sake, but that doesn’t mean he ever backs down.
The supporting cast, while along with having silly names (what kind of Mom Mouse would name her kid Bugsy Wugsy?), is strong as well. Each character contributes to the investigation in their own way, though some a bit more helpful then others.
The Really Good Stuff: There is an educational element to this comic that I think really adds to the story. Interspersed throughout the story are fact panels which both provide background history of Paris at the time as well as the building of the Eiffel tower itself. There is a certain kind of mastery involved here since I never felt that the panels took away from the story or caused any unnecessary distractions or breaks. In fact, the trivia that you read even comes up again later in the book as the characters make references to the actions and over all mood of Parisians in the late 19th century.
The Maybe Not-As-Good: My only complaint about this book is that the solution is really simple. I mean, really really simple. Perhaps even a little too easy for the ages 7-11 this book is aimed for. Oddly enough, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. It’s funny how you have a lot less to say about a book that is quite good, but there is very little to find issue with.
Perhaps the only thing a parent might not like is that there is an element of cartoon violence. The lead female Pirate Cat not only states that she means to kill our mousey heroes, but makes several rather unsuccessful attempts at doing so. These are played off as funny, because the cats can’t seem to get anything right anyhow. It reminded me a lot of the old Warner Brothers cartoons with heavy falling objects, but sadly lacking in piano movers and anvils.
Final Tally: Both 8 year old and 30-something Smalerie agree! 4 out of 5 Polly-O String Cheesy Goodness
FTC Full Disclosure: I received free copies of these books from Papercutz. I was not compensated with money or unicorn rides to write this review.