________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009


The Bored Book.

David Michael Slater. Illustrated by Doug Keith.
Vancouver, BC: Simply Read Books, 2009.
36 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
ISBN 978-1-897476-19-2.

Kindergarten-grade 4 / Ages 5-9.

Review by Diana Lynn Wilkes.

*1/2 /4



This text-less picture book presents the dilemma of a young boy and girl, presumably siblings, who are visiting an older relative (possibly a grandfather) without any of the usual forms of entertainment. As boredom sets in, the children start to fight and fuss with each other. When a secret passage in the relative's library is revealed, the children find "The Bored Book" and, as it unfolds, so does their adventure. They tumble into the enlarged book and encounter all sorts of fantastic and fearsome creatures and characters.

internal art     First the boy chooses a topic, and the pair are faced with very frightening situations: an angry abominable snowman, three terrifying pirates, and, in just escaping them, the duo get swallowed by a shark. The siblings argue, and the girl next chooses a castle scene, but a fire-breathing dragon reigns there. They try to find their way out of the fictional fantasy world as a giant squid catches the girl, but the boy manages to save her. Now they are united in their escape and fold up the mysterious book. Racing back to the library to show it to the old man, they are shocked to discover it has no amazing pictures, just text. He shows them various titles of the other books on the shelves, and, with smiles and arms around each other, the two children peacefully read the classic books from which their adventures were derived: Abominable Snowman, Treasure Island, Hunchback of Notre Dame, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and Sinbad: Legends of the Seven Seas.

      This final situation is what many adults would hope for——that children feel excited about books, especially the classics. Great adventure can be found between the covers of a good book, but the idea of kids going from irritated boredom to cooperative reading is not as realistic as we adults might like. Kids would see through this didactic message in a heartbeat.

      As The Bored Book is a text-less book, the illustrations are of paramount importance and must carry the weight of story transmission with their detail and expressive qualities. The gentle pencil crayon and watercolour illustrations in this book do provide detail and expression and present the story well enough while still allowing for the reader's own interpretation. When the children are bored, the illustrations are black and white. When the book adventures unfold, so does the colour. However, there are some qualities of the drawings that feel awkward. The facial expressions of the children and the storybook characters are very extreme, with popping eyes and exposed teeth or fangs——very alarming if not frightening. With these fierce expressions displayed in a soft and gentle artwork style, the presentation doesn't work as well as it might.

      Yes, the story is told well enough through the illustrations, but it may not be the best style of pictures to attract kids to read it. As well, the kind of story message isn't one that children would be excited about reading. This bored book is not a cure for boredom and will likely remain on bookshelves instead of becoming a favourite.

Not recommended.

Diana Lynn Wilkes, who has taught grades K to 7 and visual arts for grades 8-10, holds a B.Ed from Simon Fraser University and a Master of Arts degree in Children's Literature from the University of British Columbia. She writes and paints from her homes in Surrey, BC, and Nelson, New Zealand.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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