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mercredi, septembre 24, 2003

 Book Review: A Sometime Feature

So Madonna put out a children's book, being fed up with timeless classics like Cinderella and Snow White. Think she can do better? Think again. I took a nice long stand-read at Kinokuniya Takashimaya the other day.

A bunch of four precocious kids, Nicole, Amy, Charlotte and Grace have this girl gang clique, you see. They love dancing together, partying together, boozing picnic-ing together, and they love being jealous together of this other girl, Binah, because she's so much prettier than them, and all the adults just love her. So they do what any other self-righteous girl gang clique would do, and ostracise her, not inviting her to any of their slumber parties and picnics.

Then, one night, during a slumber party, one mother had the audacity (*gasp!*) to suggest that the girls invite Binah over sometime, since she's always so alone.

"Eww!" the girls think, as they drink their tea (in a fit of what can only be construed as the Author remembering that she's married and living in England.) Their tea must have been laced with something a little stronger than mere milk, for they have one heck of a mass hallucinationatory dream.

In their collective dream, this fat old lady (who has difficulty deciding if she wants to adopt a New York brassy spunk in her tone, or retain the good old English matronly charm) offers to let them be anyone they want to. For some reason, the little b*tches girls start yammering on about how great it must be to be Binah, and how nice it must be to have all the adults going on about you all the time.

In a unilateral move, not unlike a World Superpower, the fat old lady (oh, you mean she's supposed to be a fairy godmother?) takes them into Binah's life to see that this poor little girl has a terrible life, with no mom, and a dad who makes her do all the housework and cook dinner too. "I can't even cook eggs*!" wails one of the kids in the dream.

(*substitue for some other simple-to-do household chore or other because I can't remember what it was exactly that she wailed.)

Of course, they wake up and decide that yes, they have been nasty little bitc.., I mean, girls, and they'll now make friends with Binah and be all nice and pally with her. So they hang out with her and have picnics with her, and the unexpected side-effect of all this chumminess is that the adults finally take notice of the larger collective that Beautiful Binah (yes, I'm proud of my alliterative genius) is part of, and say things (audible the The Collective) like "Oh, look at those English Roses! They must be the prettiest girls in the whole of England!" or something to that effect.

Leaving out the absolutely massive headache that you would have gotten after reading this (due to the huge moralistic anvils raining down), and ignoring the pages riddled with clichés, the storybook's actually pretty okay. The verdict: the spelling's mostly alright, and the pictures are nice and pretty. It's actually not a bad book for kids, just that Madonna's inexperience in writing for children shows up quite badly. It's almost like she's warring within herself: the mother vs. the material girl, the American vs. the English, the desire to write a modern fairy tale vs. the yearning to rewrite canon.

Kids will probably enjoy it; who doesn't enjoy a good ostracising-makeup story? Its heavy-handed moralistic anvils of inclusion, compassion and "being nice" aren't exactly the worst traits a children's author could preach, and the really pretty stylised pictures will entertain the most attention-deficit child.

Buy it? Nope. But it's alright if you hear a librarian reading it to your kids during story-hour.

[Extra information: This is book ONE of FIVE kids books that Maddy plans to put out. Somebody save us.]

[Book Review: A Sometime Feature]
Sngs Alumni @ 24.9.03 { }

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