Friday, May 17, 2019

Review - Rubi's Best Friend

Rubi's Best Friend
by Sonya Thompson
Date: 2019
Publisher: River of Life
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 28
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

When seven-year-old Rubi’s dad is stationed in Germany, she wonders how her family will ever live happily in a foreign country. But when she meets Peter and his loving German family, Rubi and her parents forge great friendships that will go on to span a lifetime—and the globe—no matter the distance!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a rather cringe-worthy picture book that had the potential to be a lot better than it was. Unfortunately, the execution is severely lacking, making it an almost painful read.

Let's talk about the look of the book first. The illustrations are quite awful. Not only that, but some of them actually repeat (which I find rather lazy). The people are kind of creepy, with their huge eyes and noodly appendages. In one illustration, Peter's hand even appears to be on backwards! The pictures don't take full advantage of the text, either. The German food (schnitzel and spaetzle) just looks like a few pieces of torn cardboard on a plate, and Rubi's green-and-red "German dress" is described but not shown. The German car that Rubi's father buys is also completely out of proportion; the roof of the sedan barely comes up to the men's waists!

There's also a weird bit of formatting near the beginning when Rubi's sister is first mentioned by name. The author chose to break up little Diamond's name with a hyphen. This is a picture book--a self-published picture book, no less--and the author would've had complete control over where to put the text. Hyphenating words in a picture book is completely unnecessary, and potentially confusing (I had to wait until the sister was mentioned again before I knew whether her name was Diamond or Dia-mond).

The writing is insipid and uninspiring. Aside from the little touches of German language (which I did like... although, a pronunciation guide would've been nice), the text is pedestrian and a little bit condescending. I really don't understand why so many picture-book authors feel the need to simplify their stories and text so much. Rubi is seven at the beginning of the book and around nine at the end; kids that age are likely going to feel like they're being talked down to with a book like this.

The message of friendship gets kind of lost in the boring story. There's no real conflict, and no problem for Rubi to solve. She's tossed around by the hands of fate (well, her parents and the US military, really) and doesn't have any agency in the story. Everything happens to her. That doesn't exactly make for an interesting character... or an interesting story.

Thank you to NetGalley and River of Life for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.33 out of 5

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