Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Review - Dazzling Travis: A Story About Being Confident & Original

Dazzling Travis: A Story About Being Confident & Original
by Hannah Carmona Dias
illustrated by Brenda Figueroa
Date: 2019
Publisher: Cardinal Rule Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Travis sets no limits to what he enjoys doing. Shopping and football, ballet and dress-up make Travis a one of a kind boy! But when some of the kids on the playground begin to pick on him, Travis truly dazzles. This empowering story encourages both boys and girls to challenge the social norm, revealing their true selves.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This rhyming picture book is narrated by Travis, who doesn't follow stereotypical gender norms. When he's confronted by a trio of time-travelling bullies (or so I assume; their attitudes certainly seem like they're from the 1950s), he stands up for himself and his friends and tells the meanies that boys and girls can play with whatever they like and dress in whatever way makes them happy.

The message here isn't subtle at all. For older readers, it might be a little too straightforward and obvious.

The illustrations are fine. I do like the way that one of the bullies is drawn. (After the confrontation, she really seems to be pondering what Travis said.)

There are a couple of pages at the back profiling people who defied gender norms in their day (Coco Chanel, Langston Hughes, etc.). These characters are rendered in yet another illustration style... with one exception. The author was apparently inspired by a former student, and his photograph is included. I'm not sure including an actual photograph in a story about gender norms and bullying is the best idea; it makes the poor kid identifiable, and perhaps even more of a target than he was before. (Why couldn't he have been drawn in the cartoon style like the rest of the historical figures?)

This book comes across as very much a teaching tool about gender norms and bullying. It might be a little too in-your-face for some readers, but younger children may take the overall message to heart. This isn't the worst picture book I've read on this subject, but it has some definite weaknesses that keep it from being one of the better ones.

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

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.14 out of 5

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