©2009 Mike Wilks; (P)2009 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
I just loved this book, even though it's geared towards younger readers. I think I was more drawn into because of my artistic background...the thought of having to pay high prices for color and it being controlled by powerful people intrigued me, because color is all around you and if you wanted to you could make your own...but not in Melkin Womper's world. This books makes me wish I was young again, just so I could have an imagination that hasn't been tempered with by growing up and being told is so in the world we live in.
I get a kick out of recommending titles to my 5th-7th grade students. Currently, there is big buzz for Brandon Mull, who will visit in April
The concept behind this book is excellent--I think we can all appreciate the idea of entering a painting the way Mary Poppins entered the chalk drawing and Alice entered the mirror. We also like the idea of noble individuals fighting against a corrupt government. That said, as I listened, I found myself thinking that the writer was not an expert storyteller and that he had not spent much time with his presumed target audience (11-13). Although I finished it less than two weeks ago, I had to search my mind to remember the names of the main characters because they did not stick with me as real people but as "types" put in motion to be part of a concept-driven plot. I always prefer a character-driven story, but even if plot were the priority, I admit to feeling a little regretful that I used my monthly credit for this one. The villains were completely two-dimensional-- cruel, stupid, selfish and unprincipled--cartoon villains. The main character, Mel, came up with solutions far too easily. His humble beginnings and good heart were not sufficient to prepare him to save the day when experienced adults ran out of ideas. It was just too contrived for me, especially a lot of the dialog. Children are more sophisticated than we sometimes give them credit for. After about age seven or eight, they want more than a new take on "once upon a time." They want to read about people they can admire or despise for good reasons. No matter how interesting a concept or how complex a plot, they want to see real people, not caricatures or generic child types--where have we seen the brave boy, the talented girl, and the hapless best friend before? Hmm. And there is no Dumbledore or Lupin or McGonagal for any of them to confide in or turn to in this story. The adults move in a circle apart from the children, not offering them much in the way of love, understanding, or support-- but the children are almost entirely motivated by the desire to rescue or protect the adults in their lives. I just don't buy that.
I had never heard of Mike Wilks before I read this, and I did look at his other works. I suspect the shorter picture books are more successful.
Paul English does a good job of voicing characters and adding energy to the text.
I did see it through to the end, but if I had been consulted as editor, there is much I would have left out, much I would have changed.
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