Saturday, October 10, 2009
TOS Review: Good News Express from Passkeys Foundation
Writing stories for children is actually a delicate process. You'd think it was easy judging by the sheer number of books available, wouldn't you? Well, it's not. I say this because I do not write children's books. Sure, I dabble in a few little whatnots for my own kids, but to write for a larger audience of children takes a very judicious, sure hand.
And I've never been able to master that. Not so far, at least.
Truthfully, many people who have written books for children haven't quite managed to master that special skill. They've got a great idea, perhaps. A fabulous illustrator, even. But the art of placing together the simplest of words and conveying mountains of meaning, well ... that's the tricky part.
If you don't believe me, go ahead and check the shelves of your local library's kid's section. I cringe to think of all of the poorly written tales you'll find there.
Sadly, we don't expect a whole lot from literature aimed at the younger set--probably because we're so used to seeing poor examples littering the genre. Unfortunately, the free copy of The Birthday Gift, part of the Good News Express series, fits that mold. Published through the Passkeys Foundation, a nonprofit group dedicated to character training, this series focuses on a specific character trait in each tale. I wish that I'd had the whole set in front of me, because the single story I was able to review may have been an anomaly. Maybe it's just the rare bad apple in an otherwise great set. I don't know.
All I can say is that while I understood what was going in in this story, the four children and one other adult who read it did not. We each inferred something different from the circumstances ... and folks, that's not a good thing.
The trouble arose early on in the plot. Bramwell, a little bear, meets a friend who is poor. This little bear has no shoes--something that Bramwell takes for granted. Later on, during Bramwell's birthday party, he is given a variety of wonderful, well-chosen gifts. Instead of showing obvious gratitude, Bramwell seems slightly ... well, off.
And this is where the confusion set in.
"He's being rude!" Logan said, when he read Bramwell's somewhat dismissive thanks after one gift.
"Yikes. He hurt that girl's feelings," Jo surmised when a gift-giver rushed to explain how carefully she'd chosen something for Bramwell.
"Huh? I don't get this. What's wrong with it?" Mr. Blandings said at the story's climax, as Bramwell asked to give away the gift he'd most longed for.
I will say that great conversations ensued after the reading of this book. We dug deep into Scripture, we talked about our own character flaws and we even took the time to script out how Bramwell should have responded.
But that's not what the people who wrote this book intended. They put out a story intending to lead you to a conclusion, and it just didn't happen.
The Birthday Gift is $7.50 and comes with a high-quality music cd. A set of all four Good News Express books and cds retails for $20.