Friday, July 12, 2019

Review - Out Loud: June's Venture

Out Loud: June's Venture
by Luz Agudelo
illustrated by Andres Restrepo
Date: 2019
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

June, a shy and lonely girl is excited and nervous about her school’s competition on the beach. She expects to make some friends…until she discovers that it’s not as easy as she thought. After June gets bullied and left out by her peers, she runs away to hide herself in embarrassment. However, June soon discovers that she is not alone. Jonas, a kid from her school follows her to her hidden place. Together they end up stumbling upon Gull, a stranded seagull yelling for help. It doesn’t take long for things to get a little ugly after a big monster ambushed them.

As things escalate rapidly, will June be able to face her fears in order to save Gull from this strange monster and make new friends?

(synopsis from NetGalley; see it on Goodreads)

Determined to be who she is every day,
June let out a sudden, "Yaaayyy"
cheering herself all the way.

And the kid wonders why she attracts bullies...

Out Loud: June's Venture tells the story of a girl named June who is beset by a bully's taunts. Rather than listen to what happened, the adults basically tell her to suck it up. So she runs away, meets a boy named Jonas, rescues a seagull from a sentient trash monster, gives said monster a talking-to, stays up all night, returns to the beach (where the rest of her class is, inexplicably, still engaged in their sandcastle-building competition), stands up to the bully, and magically grows some self-esteem. Whew.

The problem I'm having with this book (aside from the obnoxious poetry style it's written in) is that it doesn't seem to know its audience. The language used throughout is too advanced for young children, and yet the trash monster is likely to make older readers roll their eyes. The heavy-handed messaging throughout and the rather inexplicable sudden growth of the characters doesn't help, either; in places the story almost reads like a non-fiction self-help book, with lots of quips that could easily be found on motivational posters. I'm also not a fan of the way the author uses the word "lame" as derogatory; ableist language really has no place in a book about bullying.

The character development is really uneven, and at times, I wasn't even sure who the main character was supposed to be. The story starts out with June being harassed by Bill (the bully), so she runs away. Then she encounters Jonas, who takes top billing (when they're together after that, they're usually referred to as "Jonas and June"). Then the seagull seems to become the main character. And then Skull (the trash monster). June, as our main character, is almost forgotten at times. And she's not even that great of a character to begin with. Her main trait is that she's a bullying victim. When she finally gets some self-esteem and stands up to the bully, her attitude switch almost seems to come out of the blue because of the lack of character development earlier on. (Skull is actually developed the best as a character, but only because we're told in over-the-top style about how he was formed from other people's trash, and so started hurling his own emotional garbage at others to get the attention and validation he so craves. Subtle, he isn't.)

This is yet another self-published picture book that doesn't credit the illustrator on the cover (what is up with that?!). I can't say I'm really a fan of the illustrations anyway, though. They're rather juvenile, and look like quick sketches rather than professional artwork. (However, that may have been intentional, as the whole book seems to be designed to look like a young person's notebook, with the lined pages and speech bubbles inserted here and there for effect.)

Overall, I wasn't that impressed by this. The clunky rhyme, coupled with the heavy-handed message and somewhat nonsensical plot elements (is this a book about bullying or about the environment?), just don't seem a good fit for the age group this is supposedly aimed at.

Thank you to NetGalley and MYTHIKAS LLC for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.13 out of 5

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