Saturday, May 14, 2011

For young readers: Velveteen Rabbit, Lightning Larry, and Herbert's Wormhole

book reviews

The Velveteen Rabbit (1922)
Author: Margery Williams
Illustrator: William Nicholson
A stuffed rabbit who yearns to be real is the subject of The Velveteen Rabbit, the much loved story which is considered to be a classic piece of children’s literature. After arriving as a pristine new toy that is a Christmas present for a boy, a rabbit made out of velveteen – with a coat “spotted brown and white”, “real thread whiskers”, and ears “lined with pink sateen” – comes to live with the other toys in the nursery, where a wise, old skin horse tells him that a toy can become real if its owner really loves it. “By the time you are Real,” the horse explains, “most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand,” thus making the rabbit wish he too could experience this magic called Real.
The story progresses into a poignant tale about life, love, and beauty that is not only timeless, but also heart-warming and touching. The Velveteen Rabbit is both beautifully conceived and very nicely written, and thoroughly deserving of all the acclaim it has received.

The Legend of Lightning Larry (1993)
Author: Aaron Shepard
Illustrator: Toni Goffe
Set in the Wild West, the book tells the story of Lightning Larry, a mysterious stranger who one day rides into Brimstone, a town troubled by a gang of outlaws. Much to the bad guys’ chagrin, Lightning Larry isn’t just your average gunfighting good guy; not only can Larry draw faster than the rest of them, but he also has a very peculiar gun, one that doesn’t shoot bullets but bolts of light! Larry aims straight for the heart, and once hit by the bolts of light, the meanness is gone, and the bad guys are transformed into nice, helpful citizens. Of course the rest of the outlaw gang aren’t happy that their comrades have gone straight, and they in turn come after Larry, which eventually leads to a showdown.
The picture book is a quick, fun read; the main character is easy to love and root for, and the story of a cowboy who likes to drink lemonade and shoots bolts of lightning into people’s hearts which make them nicer is very likely to amuse young readers.

Herbert’s Wormhole (2009)
Author: Peter Nelson
Illustrator: Rohitash Rao
After finishing AlienSlayer 2, a video game involving aliens who need to be slayed, what Alex Filby really wants is the new, super cool game AlienSlayer:3-D!; his parents, of course, have other plans for his summer, so what he gets instead is a jungle gym and a playdate with his nerdy inventor neighbour Herbert Slewg, which he reluctantly partakes in, only to discover that Herbert not only had AS:3-D!, but much to Alex’s horror, has taken the game apart and incorporated it into his inventions, including the games silver zip-up bodysuits, which he has modified in an attempt “to invent the world’s first Negative Energy Densifiers”. Little does he know that it is these very suits that will take him on the adventure of his life by opening a wormhole in his jungle gym’s tunnel-slide, and transporting the boys a hundred years into the future, where humans live in harmony with an alien species known as the G’Daliens, who wear bad toupees and fake moustaches wearing and have Australians accents.
The zany science fiction plot is both fun and amusing, and the story is interesting enough to make you want to keep reading. The narrative is interspersed with illustrations, much like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, and while the drawings could have been slightly better artistically, the pictures do add to the tale and complement the story well, while making the book more reluctant-reader friendly.

- Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune - 14th May, 2011

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