CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 8. . . .October 22, 2010.
The 13th Floor: Primed for Adventure.
Crystal J. Stranaghan. Illustrated by Izabela Bzymek.
Vancouver, BC: Gumboot Books, 2007.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Stories in rhyme.
Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.
Review by Myra Junyk.
She looked right and looked left, and saw door after door,
and thought, "something is really quite wrong with this floor"!
She pinched herself hard, but it wasn't a dream.
Penelope was now on floor number thirteen!
Miss Penelope Jones is a "mischievous kid" who loves to explore. During the summer, her parents send her to her grandmother's apartment in the city so that they can get some rest! Penelope decides to explore the building at the first opportunity. She gets on the elevator and presses every floor button several times. The elevator behaves strangely, but finally the doors open - on floor number thirteen!
At first, Penelope wants to escape, but when the elevator disappears, she is forced to explore this strange floor. She finds a damp and grayish world. She discovers a party where people are dancing in snow that tastes like glue and soap. An old man tells her a sad story of a world of climate change. The inhabitants of this world eventually settled in this underground place. As Penelope tries to leave, she encounters a junk heap of useless objects. She finally returns to the real world through a mirror.
Although there are some creative visuals in this picture book, the unappealing font and the dense text greatly detract from its readability. The text is written in rhyming couplets, but the rhyme scheme is often forced and confusing. Young readers will have difficulty with lengthy passages, such as the one describing Penelope pushing buttons on the elevator. On this one page, there are 12 lines of repetitive text.
The storyline also lacks cohesion. The plot jumps from one event to another without any logical transitions. Penelope starts out as a "mischievous kid" on an adventure. She then ends up in another world. Somehow, she starts dancing at a party where there are fake snowflakes. At this point, readers are told a story of ecological disaster. Finally, there is an episode in a junk room which leads to travel through a mirror.
The jumbled storyline is obviously trying to send a message about climate change and sustainability. Unfortunately, the flaws in this picture book, due to the lack of effective editing, detract from that message.
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.
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