CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 32. . . .April 23, 2010
Dull, boring and flawed, these titles, recent additions to the “Meet My Neighbor” series (now numbering eight books) need major revision to be of use to anyone. Designed for very young readers, the books primarily attempt to show kids the major aspects of various jobs and also that the workers they encounter on an occasional basis lead “regular” lives. Each title begins with a couple of double-page spreads introducing the neighbor and his or her family and home. Then the reader is shown the various tasks that are performed by the neighbor during the course of a working day. There is nothing new about this concept, nor does the author offer a fresh take on it. He often does not put tasks in their proper sequence, and, in a few cases, he provides no explanation for various terms and sometimes even leaves the reader to fill in what happens next (as in the case of one of the people who requires an ambulance in the title about the paramedic).
The text, printed in a very large and simple font, is limited: three of the reviewed titles have only 21 or 22 sentences, while the fourth has 27. Sentences, just one or two per page, are stilted and repetitive and read more like the labeling of a photograph than part of a continuous narrative. On the plus side, the experts in the photographic illustrations are representative of both genders, occasionally shown in nontraditional roles, and there are many people of colour. However, the photos are flat, somewhat dark and lack visual interest. A table of contents is included, although it is unlikely to be of much use. There is also a pictorial glossary with five entries per title.
In Meet My Neighbor, the Dentist, readers will be introduced to Dr. David Meisels, who, undoubtedly, has the most bland office décor of any dentist- there’s not a chart, a poster or a picture on the beige walls. Meisels’ patient, Jacqueline, is having her teeth cleaned and a cavity filled, but nowhere does the author explain to readers what a cavity is, nor does he describe any of the tools that the dentist needs in order to do his work. There are obvious gaps in the information contained in this book. For example, there is no mention of freezing the gums in preparation for the filling, and the author lists only professional teeth cleaning and the use of dental floss in keeping one’s mouth and teeth healthy. Toothpaste, fluoride, proper nutrition and tooth brushing techniques are not even discussed.
Christina Gomes is featured in Meet My Neighbor, the Hair Stylist. Though there are photos of clients having their hair washed, straightened, curled, dyed and highlighted, it would have been better to show the sequence of having one’s hair cut and styled, from making the initial appointment to the finished product. The final double-page spread depicts some women getting ready to model for a fashion show. Though the text reads “Christine and her co-workers help them style their hair and put on their makeup,” the photograph shows the models getting dressed, adjusting shoe straps and doing up buttons.
Meet My Neighbor, the Paramedic describes the life of Roberta Scott. Roberta and her co-workers are shown lounging around their workplace and making lunch before they check their medical equipment and supplies. They receive an emergency call, and once they get to the injured person’s home, they check his blood pressure as he lies on a gurney on his driveway, outside the ambulance. That is where the story of the patient ends- the reader is left wondering if the subsequent step is a trip to the hospital- because the next page shows Roberta receiving another emergency call.
Finally, in Meet My Neighbor, the Restaurant Owner, readers are introduced to William Wong who operates his family’s restaurant business. Here again, the steps are out of sequence, and there is some information lacking. Why not show Wong going to a farmers’ market to select fresh vegetables or show the cooks involved in more food preparation, such as chopping vegetables and meat? Not one of the photos shows any customers in the restaurant, and the foods being prepared are almost nondescript, so that, in most cases, readers will be unable to identify what is cooking. Though there are many more facts the author could have included, ironically he thought it important to use a double-page spread at the end of the book to show Wong and his softball team instead.
Poorly written, full of gaps, and expensive to buy- considering the amount of information provided- these books require a strong editorial hand in order to be worthy of purchase.
Gail Hamilton is a retired teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.