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Saturday, August 28, 2010

B2SW: Kids Corner: Share From the Heart by Marilyn Randall

Share from the Heart
Marilyn Randall
28 pages 
ages 4-6
Share from the Heart is the story of a lonely dragon named Peter who meets two orphaned brothers on a lonely, dark night, as the brothers were on their way home. They were frightened at first of this huge, fire-breathing dragon, but soon learned that even though there were tremendous differences between them, they could overcome those differences and find true friendship that could be beneficial to all three involved. Marilyn brings Peter to life with lots of character in this heartwarming story written to show small children that overcoming differences rather than shunning and avoiding differences can be beneficial and helpful to everyone. It is a lesson about sharing and wanting to find friendship when it might otherwise not be easily found.

Ugh.  I feel bad for what I'm about to do, because this is a kid's book about sharing (or something) and it does have a good message (I guess?  Maybe?).  This was thoroughly unappealing throughout. I'm trying really hard to think of something that I liked that would make me recommend this book to someone, and I just can't.  In Share from the Heart, Marilyn Randall presents a convoluted -- and exhaustively rhyming -- story that is ostensibly about sharing, but until the two parentless children offer for the creepy dragon to come home and live with them (and share their homes/food/life), I would have thought this was a book about open-mindedness and acceptance.  But no.  The message isn't so much open-mindedness (I mean, it is, really, but that's not the professed message) is that "Happiness and kindness  is sharing whatever you've got/ Be it a home or food or just a kind word on the spot."  There's a forward in the beginning (<-- redundant.  Whatever.) that affirms that what I took from the book is infact the goal (compassion, acceptance, non-resistance to diversity), but it's still presented in this blanket theme of sharing, and I just don't get it.  I don't see how it works together, especially in the mind of a small child.

Added to that is the very lengthy text of the book.  Most pages average 4-6 quatrains of forced and often weird poetry; there's a picture for every two pages.  This ration of text to image just doesn't work for small children.  There are so many reasons why this is, and it should have been considered.  It reads like the author wanted really badly to write a cutesy rhyme, but in order for that to work, she had to draw things out longer than necessary to get to the key lines, and she had to throw in stuff that rhymed, but didn't really work.  It's far to long to hold a child's attention, the story is skippy and hard to follow, and the sheer length of it means that a child is going to be prevented from doing one of the key things they need from storybooks at that age: the ability to look at the pictures and remember bits of text and pretend to "read" it.  This is a first huge step toward reading, and it's one they won't be able to take with this book.  [And before I leave the topic of the writing, I'd like to just mention one thing that really bothered me: there is a line after the boys come upon the dragon and are scared, that says "their knees were still shaking, as if they were drunk."  In what world is this appropriate for a pre-schoolers book?]

Lastly, so I can wrap this up because I feel horrible bashing it into the ground, I want to discuss the illustrations.  Illustrations are key to kids book, both for the reason I just mentioned above, and for sheer visual appeal.  Kids need something to focus on and enjoy looking at.  These illustrations are not appealing.  In the least.  They are clumsy and awkward, and the colors, sizes and details are insipid. Peter the dragon consistently looks a little...off.  His eyes are always bugged out or rolling back in his head.  And the children look like creepy little Village of the Damned kids + their skin is devil red, and they occasionally have evil eye brows.  At first I was somewhat willing to excuse this as a sign that Randall illustrated this herself because she couldn't find/afford an illustrator, but really wanted to get her "message" out there -- then I flipped to the back and read that she "has an extensive background in the graphic design industry."  WTF?  Even if she herself is not a graphic designer, she must know people who are.  Pull some strings, call in some favors, anything to not leave your book looking as strange and blah as it does.

 Freaky little devil children 
with evil eyebrows --->

<--- Am I the only one who finds this thing creepy? 

This week, why not share some of your childhood favorites with a child?
You never know; years from now, they might be dedicating their book to you...

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