Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Scoop on Animal Poop by Dawn Cusick (2012)

Now that I'm a children's librarian, I can probably stop picking up books like this to read.  Old habits die hard though, and when I saw the cover, my children's librarian brain kicked in and said "That book looks promising."  It wasn't. 

When I was a kid, I had these big paperback books, three of them, full of fun facts and trivia.  I remember one was about sports - it had green cover - and probably as bought for my sports-loving brother.  One was about the world, I think, seperated by continents; one was general. 

I just found it online, at least one of them - The Big Book of Amazing Facts.  The three of these were among my favorite books to read (even the sports one, although I read that one far less). 

I imagine my mom bought these books at Duckwalls or Otasco or TG&Y (none of which probably exist anymore as chains). 

They were set up in a question and answer format.  The answers were sometimes humorous, but always real too.  The cartoon illustrations that accompanied most answers were simple. I can't find any examples online, but the cover of the book, although in color, gives some idea of what they looked like.

They were VERY lo-tech.

So The Scoop on Animal Poop is in that same genre as The Big Book of Amazing Facts.  I've probably just gotten too old.  I should probably go back and re-read The Big Book of Amazing Facts to see if the books have changed or I have changed.  Because the hi-tech Scoop was confusing for me.  Too many photographs, too much going on, and to me, at th expense of the writing.  The writing was poorly edited, didn't always seem to match what was going on in the illustrations.  Too much color, too much to look at.  I know, I know - we're living in the future.  Kids today, who are used to brilliant bright images and gaming and the web, need their books to reflect the digital world. Maybe it's just me.

But it seemed like a bunch of stock photographs of animals in strange poses, some of them pooping, tied together by different colored fonts at different sizes, without much content.

I think if I went back and re-read The Big Book of Amazing Facts (my copies if they still exist, are 1,300 miles away in my parents basement or attic), I think I would find that while the writing was perfect, it was still the POINT of the book.  The cartoon illustrations were secondary to the content and the writing. 

At least in The Scoop on Poop, the stock photos and funny fonts and wild colors are the content, and the writing regrettably comes second. 

"Kids... what's the matter with kids today..." Maybe what's the matter with kids is that adults think they are stupid.

The Scoop on PoopThe Scoop on Poop by Wayne Lynch
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I'm going to preface this review with a disclaimer -- I'm a grown up.  I can attempt to read a book with a child in mind, but I can't read this as a child.  So I think an 8 or 9 year old boy or girl would probably dig this book - let's face it, most kids love to read about and discuss poop.  I don't think I would necessarily buy this as a gift, but I certainly would check it out from my local library for a kid.

So from my grown up persective, I was really disappointed.  I usually like books of trivia and weird facts, and the 8 year old boy in my giggled and said "POOP!"  I think this is the push to create children's books that appeal to the gaming generation.  Books, particularly nonfiction books, have to bright and shiny and full of fun fonts and different colors and stock photography of animals doing crazy things, like sticking their tongues out or pooping.  It's just like a web page, and kids love web pages, right?

But do we really have to sacrifice writing for style?  Maybe Ms. Cusick is a terrific writer, and she was pigeonholed into producing this crappy (ha ha) book.  I don't know - this is my first attempt at readig one of her books.  But I thought the writing was choppy and poorly edited, and sort of forced.  There was always so much going on on every page that it as hard to figure out what to read first.

Maybe that's what kids want.  But I've been reading now for about 35 years now.  I think I'm a pretty good reader.  And I was having trouble.  So let's say I'm 8 years old again, and I try to read this book.  Seems to me it would be sort of difficult.  Seems to me I'd end up looking at the pictures mostly, and skipping the text.

I may be wrong.  Maybe I'm just too old.

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