CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 40 . . . . June 14, 2013
These recent additions to the "Meet My Neighbor" series (now numbering 15 titles) demonstrate little or no improvement over previous volumes. Like their predecessors, they are dull and boring and offer only "bare bones" information. 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 a daily basis lead "regular" lives, but the glimpse of the neighbors' home lives is limited to only one double-page spread which introduces the neighbor and his or her family and reveals very little about the person. 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. Throughout the series, there are several examples of the author's neglecting to explain various terms or photographic details.
The text, printed in a large, simple font, consists mostly of short, clipped sentences that are stilted and repetitive and read more like the labelling of a photograph than part of a continuous narrative. Typically, the text ends abruptly. On the plus side, the neighbours in the photographs are representative of both genders, occasionally shown in non-traditional roles, and there are many people of colour. However, the photos are, perhaps, not always as carefully selected as they could be. A table of contents is included, although it is unlikely to be of much use. There is also a pictorial glossary with 5-7 entries per title.
Meet My Neighbor, the Doctor features Dr. Ravi Ahluwalia, a busy physician who not only works at a family health care clinic, but also at a sports therapy clinic and at sporting events as a sports team doctor. Readers will notice that, depending on where he is working at the moment, Ravi wears different clothing- a white lab coat at the family health centre and a comfortable golf shirt or track suit in his role as a sports doctor. (It is interesting to note that the author's two children pose as two of Ravi's patients.) One of the photographs shows the doctor using a reflex hammer on the knee of one of his adult patients, but its purpose is never clearly explained beyond, "Ravi uses a reflex hammer to test Jennifer's reflexes. A reflex hammer is one tool that Ravi uses to help him find out what is wrong with his patients."
In Meet My Neighbor, the Firefighter, readers will be introduced to Ruth Lancashire who works at a busy fire station. This title, like the others, has some omissions. For example, other than washing the firetrucks, what do firefighters do at the station, and what room is Ruth coming from when she slides down the pole to get to the main floor of the station? Why are ladders not mentioned? Instead Ruth and her co-worker are shown using an apartment building's fire escape to get to the top floor. It would also have been beneficial for the author to explain the various parts of a firefighter's specialized clothing.
Meet My Neighbor, the Photographer features author Marc Crabtree. One would think that the photographs in this title, especially, would be the very best examples of professional photography. However, Crabtree misses the mark here. The photographs are rather boring, and a few of them are questionable. For instance, why not show the burning car instead of just the firemen trying to douse the flames, and why choose such an unattractive setting for the photo of the bride and groom? Crabtree lists the daily photo shoots he did in a given week, but never does he explain that he takes photos of inanimate objects (perhaps for an advertisement), such as pieces of pottery, even though the photograph clearly shows these objects. He states that he uses a special tool to measure the light in a room (and, in fact, he mentions the importance of good lighting in order to achieve a quality photograph several times throughout the book), yet he neglects to put a light meter in the glossary.
Despite their good intentions, these titles have glaring omissions and require major revision before being deemed worthy of purchase.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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