Saturday, May 18, 2019

Review - Éclair Goes to Stella's

Éclair Goes to Stella's (Éclair #1)
by Michelle Weidenbenner
illustrated by Melody DuVal
Date: 2014
Publisher: Random Publishing, LLC
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 80
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

When Eclair's mother leaves home, Eclair and her little sister must go live on a farm with Stella, their eccentric grandma.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've had this e-book in my Kobo account for a while. I don't even remember when I got it! I've been going back through the kids' books in my TBR pile and trying to get through them. Now I can cross Éclair Goes to Stella's off the list. I can't really say it was an enjoyable experience, though.

To begin with, the voice is all wrong. The story is told in the first person by seven-year-old Éclair... who sounds like she's seventeen. She does not have a child's voice. Everything from the idioms she uses to the word choices just screams that there's an adult author putting the words in her mouth. It's extremely distracting. (There are points in the story where the author was obviously trying to make Éclair sound like a kid, but that's the problem: those attempts are obvious. There's a point in the book where she suddenly starts using the phrase "did a", as in "did a frown" and "did a gasp". That only shows up for a page or so, however, and then it disappears.) Éclair also keeps using the term "ink-er-gerbil", which I'm guessing is supposed to be "incorrigible". I don't know if the intended audience would understand that at all. (At times, the book almost seems like it's written for adults. Éclair's constant references to "this place with Indians" or the place that "sounded like Indians" are annoying and bordering on offensive. She even wonders if all the cowboys and Indians live there. Where? Indiana. I know she's seven, but I think most seven-year-olds could grasp the idea that Indiana is the name of a state... and not a description of its inhabitants. I almost felt like this was the author trying to make a point about how stupid kids can be... and that's not exactly a sentiment that's going to appeal to the target audience.)

Meggie, Éclair's two-year-old sister, and her grandmother (variously referred to as Grandma and Stella... which is confusing) are both a little "off". At some points, Meggie can only babble like a baby... but then she can talk with a speech impediment... and then she's understanding everything going on around her like she's much older. Stella is... well, she's supposed to be an eccentric grandmother, but unfortunately, she comes across as someone who's never been around kids at all. She keeps trying to be Éclair's friend and ignoring her rudeness or misbehaviour (even after the kid eats almost half of a sugar cream pie right before bed). And there's a weird scene where Meggie puts her dirty hands on Stella's goopy face mask and then wipes them on her shirt... and Stella shrieks so loudly she freaks out the horse and makes Meggie cry. Yeah, Grandma, kids can get messy. (How did she end up as a grandmother if she doesn't know this?)

Éclair and her sister are at Stella's because their mother is undergoing treatment for some sort of mental illness. I'm not impressed by the way this is handled, either. Éclair overhears her father talking about her mother, and he actually says, "She's not right." Way to stigmatize mental illness, Dad.

A good chunk of the end of this book is taken up with pages from the next book, so I was actually kind of surprised when I hit the end... because it felt like there should've been more to the story. The plot just comes to a screeching halt. Éclair meets a horse and rides it (which is questionable, really, considering he has sores all over his body), and the story just ends.

I'm just not that impressed with this. Even the illustrations don't really do anything other than break up the text. I think the best thing I can say about reading this is that it knocked one more book off my TBR pile.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.63 out of 5

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