Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Island of Misfit Toys by Brendan Deneen -- NOT RECOMMENDED

Deneen, Brendan Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Island of Misfit Toys, illustrated by George Kambadais. 80 pgs. GRAPHIC NOVEL. Square Fish/MacMillan, 2014. $9.99. Content: PG.

Based on the characters from the claymation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, this graphic novel fills in the time gap between when Rudolph leaves the Island of Misfit Toys to when Santa delivers each toy to a new home. In this adventure, Charlie-in-the-Box is separated from the other toys. With the help of Yukon Cornelius and the Abominable Snowmonster, the remaining toys set out to rescue him.

While the pictures are engaging, and it is fun to revisit the classic characters, it's hard to recommend this story for a classroom or library. Children who are young enough to still be swept up in Santa and Rudolph will likely be lost by such vocabulary as intuition, gestures, aspiring, momentarily, utmost, scenario, surmised, callous regard, and merely unless they have a lot of adult help. Furthering its difficulty, the lettering is tiny, and the sheer length of the text and the complexity of the story -- which changes perspectives frequently -- will make this one very difficult for younger children to read on their own, while the graphic novel format and wordiness will make it a chore for an adult to read aloud. In turn, older children who do happen to enjoy Santa stories will likely notice some huge plot inconsistencies, such as the misfit train having spare square wheels to change into out in the wilderness. Why no round ones, then, when he doesn't want to be a misfit, and that's all he would need in order to fit in? Or King Moonracer being too tired to fly with Charlie on his back, but then easily carrying Charlie and several other toys two pages later. The flirting between Dolly and Cowboy is also a bit much; it begins to felt more like the stuff of a young adult novel rather than a story for kids. And do not even get me started on the fact that the one female character is not only no help at all, but actually needs serious rescuing from the very masculine Cowboy the one time she actually tries to do something important -- and that is after she does all this self-important blustering about how she is just as brave and strong as any boy. Not exactly an ideal example to set for children of either gender.

EL -- NOT RECOMMENDED. Reviewed by: Caryn

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