Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Review - The Great Big Book of Life

The Great Big Book of Life
by Mary Hoffman
illustrated by Ros Asquith
Date: 2019
Publisher: Lincoln Children's Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

A glorious, diverse celebration of human life, from birth to death, by Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith.

The sixth title in the Great Big Book series explores every stage of human life. From birth to starting nursery, being a teenager to becoming an adult, from work to relationships, homes and jobs, to aging illness and death. A universal but challenging topic is dealt with Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith's trademark sensitivity and humour and inclusivity.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This book kind of felt like a waste of time. In theory, the idea is sound. In practice, it falls short.

Despite the attempts at inclusivity in the illustrations, the book comes across as very Western. The section on partners completely ignores cultures that practice polygamy. And there's one bit in the section about language that pretty much implies that English is the only language that exists:

There are just 26 letters in the English alphabet but we can mix them up to make thousands of words. It's strange to think that all poems and songs and books and plays and films are made up of so few letters.

Some of the pictures I found a little bit confusing, like I was missing the joke or something. And sometimes, even the text was confusing:

Death is very mysterious and no-one really understands it. But it means that life has come to an end. The person stops breathing and their heart stops beating and the blood stops moving round their body. So they can't talk or feel or move any more.

I don't know. That sounds like a pretty reasonable explanation of death to me. So why do they say nobody understands it?

What really irked me about this book was the spread about "staying well", which is basically just pro-vaccine propaganda. If you're going to unabashedly push your agenda on small children, at least get your facts right. As it is, there are two easily disproven statements on those pages (including the implication that smallpox is still circulating).

I'm confused as to who the audience is supposed to be. Parts of this book seem like they're written for kids, while others seem to be aimed at adults. It's way too biased toward Western culture, though, and makes a lot of statements that seem a little judgmental or guilt-trippy in nature (like how the page on school basically ignores homeschooling and even tries to make kids feel guilty for not going to an actual school because others don't have that opportunity at all). Oh, and one last thing: if you find a fart as hard to control as a sneeze (as the book suggests), then you might need to see a doctor.

Long story short, I don't recommend this one. The premise is decent. The execution is not.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lincoln Children's Books for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.33 out of 5

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