Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Review - The Circle Game

The Circle Game
by Joni Mitchell
illustrated by Brian Deines
Date: 2011
Publisher: Dancing Cat Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: library

More than forty years ago, Joni Mitchell’s music helped define a generation of young people. Now, one of her classic songs is introduced to a new generation through the remarkable art of Brian Deines.

The Circle Game, a charming nod to childhood dreams and memories, tells the story of a young boy experiencing the simple wonders of life: dragonflies in jars, the night sky, frozen streams, and carousels. As the years go by, cartwheels are replaced by car wheels and the boy’s dreams change, but the sense of wonder remains. The Circle Game captures the timeless magic of youth.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Sometimes picture books miss the mark. Often, those ones seem to be those where nostalgia or adult tastes get in the way of what children really want to see and read about. This book falls squarely into that category. It might be a good book for an older adult, but I doubt it's going to hold the interest of kids.

The text is taken directly from Joni Mitchell's song. It's about childhood and growing up, and by the time the book is done, it's going to be completely unrelatable for the age group it's supposedly aimed at. The boy grows up, gets his driver's licence, and turns twenty. How many preschoolers want to read about that?

I could've overlooked some of the age-inappropriateness if the illustrations had been amazing, but they were just... not. Some of them were quite nice, but others were dark and obscure, and I don't think they'd be all that appealing to kids. (I'm also confused as to why they didn't get Joni Mitchell to do the illustrations herself. She's a talented painter in her own right. That could've made this book even more special.)

I think my favourite part of this book was the "about the author" section at the back. It's more extensive than what you'd usually see in a picture book, but I found it interesting. Far more interesting than the book itself, in fact.

If you're a Joni Mitchell fan, then you might want to buy this book to introduce her songs to your kids. But I wouldn't expect them to love it. Really, you'll probably be buying the book for yourself, because I can't really see this being a children's favourite.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

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