Friday, June 14, 2019

Review - The Great Compromise

The Great Compromise
by Julia Cook
illustrated by Kyle Merriman
Date: 2019
Publisher: Boys Town Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 34
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Cora June and her classmate, Wilson, are locked in a battle of wills. Each one desperately wants to be the ultimate decider. They scream at each other about whether to play dodgeball or soccer at recess. They get into a tug of war over a Popsicle. Each wants to dictate where to go on the next class trip! Can these two opinionated, wanna-be leaders compromise or agree to anything?

Using rhymes and relatable situations, this story offers valuable lessons about the power of compromise and why the best leaders are never afraid to negotiate. The Great Compromise is the latest addition to the Leader I’ll Be series by award-winning author and education expert Julia Cook.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is a book that's supposedly about the topic of compromise. Unfortunately, the message is muddied and could be potentially confusing to a child (or to anyone who doesn't know the actual definition of compromise).

Cora June and Wilson keep arguing over everything. First, they get paired up for the Fantastic Flavor Feast and have to bring in a dish of their favourite food. (This seems like a project designed to create conflict, but I digress.) Cora June wants to bring spaghetti, but Wilson's advocating for tacos. Then at recess, Cora June wants to play dodge ball, but Wilson wants to play soccer. Again, they clash. Then there's a decision about the class trip; Cora June picks the zoo, but Wilson wants to see the State Capitol. The final straw is when a classmate hands out popsicles and there are only two left: one blue and one red. Of course Cora June and Wilson start to fight over the blue one.

It's at this point that their teacher gets fed up with the constant bickering. She sits them down and tells them they need to learn how to compromise. She proceeds to do this by... flipping a coin.

Let's pause for a second and look at the definition of "compromise":

to make a deal in which each side makes concessions

So how does flipping a coin constitute a compromise? It doesn't. That's the first confusing part of the story. But it gets worse. The teacher then goes on to say:

Your wants and your needs get compromised,
so others can get their way.

Now, that is a valid definition of "compromise", but probably not the one the book intended to talk about. In fact, the very first point in the parents' section at the back states:

Compromise does not mean surrendering something of value just to maintain peace.

And yet, that's pretty much what the aforementioned text is advocating! The notes then go on to aim for a "win-win" situation rather than a "win-lose" one... but if you're making concessions so that others can get their way, you're not going to have a "win-win". (For that matter, you're not going to have anything but a "win-lose" situation if you flip a coin. I'm still confused as to how that has anything to do with compromise, no matter how you define it.)

Okay... now that the confusing stuff is out of the way, let's talk about the rest of the book. I really do like the illustrations. They're cute and colourful, the characters have great facial expressions, and the pictures are likely to be appealing to kids. I'm not sure if I would've gone with red and blue (it politicizes things a bit too much), but kids may not notice that aspect, anyway.

The writing is... strange. Parts of the text are in rhyme (and in italics), but others aren't. Since this is the first of these books that I've read, my first impression of this is that it seems a bit lazy, almost as if the author couldn't be bothered to work to make the whole thing rhyme. Maybe it's just the style that was used in the rest of the series, though (which would make it weird if it were changed now).

I think I might've liked this one better had it not specifically used the word "compromise". The story is really about solving social problems. By narrowing it to the concept of compromise, it confuses the issue and even makes it look wrong in places. It's too bad, because the actual solutions--and the actual compromises that are included--are actually pretty good. Well, in theory; I don't know if "spacos" are all that tasty...

Thank you to NetGalley and Boys Town Press for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.57 out of 5

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