2 out of 4 stars
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There is something so satisfying about finding a good children’s book that has a clever storyline, interesting pictures, and a thoughtful message. Auntie Bertie and the Flying Circus Mouse by Esther Loftus Gough is a children’s book meant for young readers that tried to have these three great elements I’ve listed.
Auntie Bertie and the Flying Circus Mouse is about the circus coming to town and Auntie Bertie’s aversion to the entire premise of people making ‘lots of noise, music! – and on top of that HAVE FUN!” She sets out to stop the circus from coming but can’t help but get sucked in by the fun and festivities. The story does not include an antagonist, which I think works well for a book for very young kids. It helps keep the story simple and more focused on learning about human interaction and other lessons that are good for young children.
While I think stories for this age should focus on didacticism, as previously mentioned, I don’t believe this story includes didactic elements very well. Auntie Bertie comes across as a grumpy Mary Poppins. She even says, “as I always say children should be seen and not heard!” which is something villainous Miss Andrews, from Mary Poppins, would say. Additionally, Auntie Bertie sees the circus owner eating with his elbows on the table, so she precedes to ‘whack’ his elbows down. While I don’t have children of my own, I wouldn’t want my nieces or nephews reading about this rude old lady.
In addition to didacticism, another common element to children’s literature is illustration. To begin with, this story claims to have a ‘Colour Therapy Twist’ (colour is the British spelling of the word). Gough attempts to explain what this means in the Introduction, but as a reader and an aunt I’m left confused as to what ‘Therapy’ is included for the children who read it. While I like the bright colors that are used as background for the pages with text, I personally felt that the illustrations were lacking. The pictures in this picture book were staid, unimaginative, and stiff. Also, many of the pictures do not show what is happening in the text. If I were to read this to a child, or if a child read this book to themselves, I think that this incongruity would be frustrating and annoying for them as it was for me.
I wanted this story to be a fun re-imagining of a Mary Poppins type character, but it fell flat for me. The elements to engage kids in a story that they would enjoy and learn from are just not there. Additionally, the focus of the story shifts half way through from Auntie Bertie to two cats – Molly and George. This shift added to my confusion while reading this story and caused the ending to feel insincere. For these reasons, and for the multitude of grammar errors, I will give Auntie Bertie and the Flying Circus Mouse a rating of 2 out of 4 stars.
Auntie Bertie and the flying circus mouse,
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