Saturday, January 26, 2019

Review - The Legend of Mr. Have and Mr. Have Not

The Legend of Mr. Have and Mr. Have Not
by Irene Booker
Date: 2013
Publisher: Xlibris
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: library

Samantha was given a school assignment to write on one out of three books. The book which caught her attention was "The Legend of Mr. Have and Mr. Have Not." Mr. Have had trust funds which were passed down to him from his great, great, great grandfathers. Mr. Have Not lived in poverty, but he refused to remain in the belly of poverty. He was determined to live a life that he could be proud of. From reading this book, Samantha's life was impacted forever. She realized the true value of a good education and to never settle in life. She was determined to continue her education until she obtained her Doctorate Degree.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Here's another one of those weird e-books that my library has in their collection. There are zero ratings on Goodreads (since it was published in 2013), so it must be pretty obscure. Where do these books come from?

In any case, it's terrible. It's full of stock clip art (with no credit given) that's repeated over and over on the pages. It's basically a snobby, elitist book that tells kids that even a bachelor's degree isn't good enough (even though it was good enough for one of the characters in the story that inspired Samantha to "dare to dream").

Basically, the plot is that 13-year-old Samantha has to write an essay for school about a book. So she chooses a book called The Legend of Mr. Have and Mr. Have Not. This is a story about a white trust-fund baby who grows up to own a company. He's a bad dude because he won't give a promotion to Mr. Have Not, who is a man of colour with only a high school diploma. Mr. Have gives the promotion to someone else who has a bachelor's degree. So Mr. Have Not decides to go back to school.

Now, none of this is necessarily bad, but then the book starts talking about how Mr. Have inherited all his money from his slave-owning ancestors and Mr. Have Not didn't inherit anything because his ancestors were slaves who built their "great nation" through free labour. At least, I think that's what the author was trying to say. Unfortunately, that message got a little garbled:

Mr. Have Not's ancestors were the slaves who built this great nation but were the recipients of free labor. He knew that the playing field was not fair and unbalanced.

So the slaves were the recipients of free labour? And this was somehow "not unbalanced"? (This is a good example of why self-published books need beta readers.)

The book goes on to say that with "education, hard work, and determination", Mr. Have Not could have his American dream, too. And then the story switches back to Samantha, who decides that she won't settle for a high school diploma... or even a bachelor's degree! No, she's not going to stop until she gets her doctorate. Now, there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm always a bit leery of education for the sake of education... especially in a country where said education is not free. So, reach for that dream, Samantha... but be prepared to be paying off student loans for the rest of your life. (I'm not sure this is the best message to be sending if you want kids to end up as Haves rather than Have Nots.)

I can see that the author had something she wanted to say, but this book just seemed like a lazy way of going about it. It relies a little too much on stereotypes and gives the impression that there's no such thing as a white Have Not because white people were all rich slave owners who passed on their wealth. (That ancestral scenario probably wouldn't even apply to the kids in my area who'd be reading the book. It's likely only going to apply to American children, and mainly those with roots in the South.)

So I can't really recommend this one. The message is basically: "Get a college degree so you don't end up working in a dead-end job for a boss with a trust fund." Which is fine, actually. But the inclusion of the race factor made this book's audience a little too specific when it didn't need to be.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 1/5
Illustrations: 0/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 0.67 out of 5

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