Friday, April 12, 2019

Review - Goodnight, Mr. Clutterbuck

Goodnight, Mr. Clutterbuck (Mr. Clutterbuck #1)
by Mauri Kunnas & Tarja Kunnas
Date: 1999
Publisher: Elsewhere Editions
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 36
Format: e-book
Source: library

From the award-winning Mauri Kunnas, Finland's most celebrated children's author, a hilarious picture book which follows the adventures of a sleepwalking goat. Mr. Clutterbuck, a mild-mannered goat, sleepwalks his way into unimaginable adventures: one night the lead singer of a rock band, the next an entrepreneur, Mr. Clutterbuck soon finds himself the hero of his town. A book that will send readers of all ages into fits of laughter.

Mr. Clutterbuck is blissfully unaware of his reputation as the busiest and loudest sleepwalker in town. Meek and mild-mannered when awake, at night Mr. Clutterbuck seeks thrills and adventures. Often the accidental instigator of chaos, Mr. Clutterbuck soon becomes the lead singer of a rock band, an entrepreneur, a disco king, and, eventually, the hero of his town. Goodnight, Mr. Clutterbuck is sure to captivate readers of all ages as we wonder what kind of situation Mr. Clutterbuck will find himself in next. With a lively tapestry of characters, including a motorcycle gang of cats and crocodiles, a hippo in charge of a sausage factory, and an ill-tempered bull at a theme park, Mauri Kunnas playfully shows what can happen when you step outside your comfort zone.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book made me wince. Aside from the dreadful translation (which actually has a character blushing their speech at one point, as well as a rock band unironically called "The Runs"), the premise is flawed and potentially dangerous. It's also quite heavy on the text for a picture book, which makes it seem twice as long as its page count suggests.

Mr. Clutterbuck is a sleepwalker. So he goes on these "adventures" every night, and his supposed best friend, Gus, just lets him... even when Mr. Clutterbuck puts himself in mortal danger. The book goes along with the old myth that you should never wake a sleepwalker because you could make them have a fit or something. But walking into traffic and cavorting on train tracks in a rail yard are pretty dangerous activities, too.

What I don't like about this is the way sleepwalking is portrayed. Mr. Clutterbuck is way too "awake". He calls people on the phone. He responds to verbal cues. He answers questions (with nonsense, but it's nonsense that makes a bit of sense in context). Each night, he inadvertently ends up doing something that helps the community. This is pretty unrealistic, and a sorry excuse for letting sleepwalkers just go at it, even if they're putting their own lives in danger. (The book ends with the town giving him the gift of a treadmill so he can sleepwalk safely. Again, this assumes that he has more control over his sleepwalking than you'd expect.)

When Mr. Clutterbuck took his lady friend onto the train tracks, someone should've woken him up. Which is worse: a few minutes of disorientation and a possible punch in the face for the person doing the waking... or Mr. Clutterbuck cut into pieces by a train's wheels?

I'm afraid I can't recommend this one.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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