105 Ways to Give a Book

Think Before You Sequel

Priscilla and the Splish-Splash SurpriseIn Priscilla and the Splish-Splash Surprise, a brother and sister team up to put together a book. That is so sweet. She’s a painter in New York City and her brother works with glass and steel at his workshop in Massachusetts. Maybe that doesn’t prepare one to be an author. I’m just thinkin’. As evidenced when you put together lines like this:
For Priscilla, in fact, there’d been no blue for days.
It started last week with a yellowish haze.
Each day the sky darkened. It thickened like soup.
Finally the whole sky just seemed to droop.
The first raindrop fell. Then the second and third.
Then the clouds opened up and rain was the word.
The storyline is that it rains for days, and Priscilla gets bored, and then she goes exploring and meets a pixie, and then they are friends, and she follows her to her pixie world where she learns how wonderful the rain really is just in time for the sun to come out again. Fine. Whatever.

The first book, Priscilla and the Pink Planet, had a better storyline to support the lame-ish rhymes. And the idea of a pink world appeals to so many little girls going through a pink phase. There was also more than a little Seuss thing going on. This new book has none of the charm of the first, which was hanging on by a thread anyway. Stop this sequel madness before it goes any further.

Ham and Pickles: First Day of SchoolThen, we have Ham and Pickles: First Day of School, written and illustrated by Nicole Rubel. The worst thing about this book is the title, which implies that this is one of many books about Ham and Pickles. How unfortunate.

The second worst thing about this book is contained inside of the first page (which would be “page 2” if you were counting the cover page, but ii if you were not), in which we learn that “the illustrations in this book were done on marker paper with black ink, markers, colored pencils, crayons, glitter, fabric paint, photographs, real flowers, rickrack, and beads.” Presumably, she didn’t think of using orange peels and fingernail clippings. Maybe in the next book.

The third worst thing about this book is the text, pretty much all the way through the whole book.

So I didn’t much like this new picture book. The illustrations, with everything piled on together, were busy and disjointed. I hated the choice of giving the guinea pigs (I think they are guinea pigs) huge, weird eyes, making them the least cute things in existence. I mean, you have to work hard to make a guinea pig un-cute.

The story involves Pickles being worried about starting school, and her brother Ham gives her all sorts of not-useful advice. This leads to an awful first day for Pickles, including forgetting her lunch. Big brother Ham saves the day in the end by sharing his lunch. And that makes all the trouble he has caused ooookkaaay.

I think books that address first-day jitters are fine, but I don’t like ones that list specific worries. Why give kids a new worry they may not have thought of yet? It just seems like a bad idea. Books that address school worries in general allow the child to tell the parent what his or her worries are without having new ones planted there to deal with. Skip this book. And with luck, maybe more won’t be produced after all.

1 comment:

Greg Pincus said...

You know, there's a fourth Priscilla book just announced. I, like you, have had some problems with the text. Not the spirit of it, but with storyline AND the fact that in the very first book there's a near-rhyme so egregious that I immediately stopped reading and ran around showing it to everyone near me. Seuss wrote English that happened to rhyme as opposed to simply writing rhyme. Big distinction in my book, and missing that distinction is what causes most of my frustration with rhyming PBs. Not all of them, by the way! Just the ones that frustrate.

Still, hats off to anyone who can get four successful books in a series published, I say. Obviously they do something VERY right.