Friday, August 30, 2019

Review - Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Help Wanted: Must Love Books
by Janet Sumner Johnson
illustrated by Courtney Dawson
Date: 2020
Publisher: Capstone
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

When Shailey's dad gets a new job, she loses her bedtime reading partner. She immediately starts interviews to fill the position and is thrilled when her favorite fairy tale characters line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can't stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings her whole team. Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The premise of this book is pretty cute. However, it's also one of those that seems to be directing winks at the parents, and that becomes problematic on one particular page when it assumes that its audience is more mature and educated than it actually is.

Shailey and her dad read a bedtime story every night. But when her dad gets a new job, he's suddenly too busy to read anymore. So Shailey fires him and puts out an ad for a new bedtime story reader. She gets plenty of applicants, but there's something wrong with all of them. Goldilocks is obsessed with the comfort of the seating. Sleeping Beauty can't stay awake. The Three Little Pigs get frightened off by the Big Bad Wolf before they even have a chance to interview. It isn't until a somewhat familiar face shows up and applies for the job that Shailey finds the perfect candidate.

I don't have much of a problem with all that. The résumés at the back are cute, too (even if much of what's in them will go over readers' heads). But there's one candidate that just didn't work. Or, I should say, Shailey's reaction didn't work. The candidate is a giant. A very human-looking giant who just happens to be very large. But rather than using the opportunity to make a statement about differences not being inherently negative, the book shows Shailey being afraid, and subsequently changing her ad to read: "Human applicants only." Now, I understand that giants are often viewed as fictional creatures, but this particular giant looked pretty real. He was simply very large. When I read Shailey's revised ad, I cringed, because it seems to endorse being afraid of differences and also discriminating based on size... as well as implying that giants aren't human. Because there are very real medical conditions that can cause people to grow unusually large, this book has the potential to fuel bigotry, and potentially even bullying. I'd hate to see kids read this and then turn around and taunt their larger peers with: "Not human!"

So I can't wholeheartedly endorse this one. Perhaps Shailey's problem with the giant applicant could've been a more practical one (e.g., "Must be able to fit in our rocking chair.") or the candidate could've been changed altogether. As it is, though, I feel uncomfortable with a book that promotes discrimination based on size, going so far as to imply someone is not human because of it. The illustrations are cute, otherwise, and the resolution to the story makes perfect sense. Maybe with a bit of tweaking, this book could avoid a potentially problematic issue and be a cute fairy tale-based read.

Thank you to NetGalley and Capstone for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.83 out of 5

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