CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 15. . . .December 10, 2010
Carolyn Millard. Illustrated by Teri Flemming.
Ottawa, ON: Baico, 2010.
52 pp., pbk., $14.95.
Kindergarten-grade 3 / Ages 5-8.
Review by Kim Aippersbach.
As Sparkler grew, she spent her days alligator singing, dust dirt digging, playing hide and seek, toe tapping and sharing her razzle-dazzle smiles with everyone.
Her sun kissed nose displayed a few random freckles and she had kaboodles of kurls. Her pigtails were constantly lopsided. 'Sure as shootin', there were always kurls sticking out all over, as if they were traveling off to Kalamazoo.
Sparkler dressed in brightly coloured outfits and she was stuck on wearing crazy patterned socks that rarely matched. One sock had a mind of its own and had decided, in its own wisdom, to settle down at her ankle. Not for love nor money would that one sock live where it belonged.
Sparkler is about a girl who learns to believe in herself and think positive thoughts. There is no particular plot: most of the chapters are descriptions of Sparkler and her home, family and friends. Near the end, Sparkler begins to suffer from "Negative-Nelly-Notions," which are not clearly defined but seem to arise from being anxious about school and being told she isn't doing things well enough. Then a "Lady of Light" appears and tells her to "think positive thoughts and you will begin to sparkle again." So she does.
Millard loves words and word play, and Sparkler has them in spades. Many of the descriptive chapters might have worked if they were condensed into poems. But this is supposed to be a story, and the excess of adjectives, invented words and reinvented clichés obscures any sense of narrative flow. Millard's characters have the potential to be engaging, and the story has some amusing incidents, but characters and incidents are bogged down in overly cute description.
Sparkler is overtly didactic, but its message is vague. Sparkler is told to think positive thoughts, but this abstract concept is never made concrete. What is a positive thought? What does Millard mean by the "Magic of the Universe?" This is a well-meaning but saccharine book that does not accomplish its objective.
Kim Aippersbach is a free-lance editor and writer with three children in Vancouver, B.C.
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