Friday, August 16, 2019

Review - The Magic Flute

The Magic Flute
by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart & Chris Raschka
illustrated by Chris Raschka
Date: 2019
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

From Caldecott Medalist and New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Chris Raschka comes a gorgeously illustrated retelling of Mozart’s classic opera, The Magic Flute.

The Magic Flute is the favorite choice of many opera lovers. But ask any of them to tell you the rambunctious, mystical, and downright oddball story of the opera and no two tellers will agree.

Enter Chris Raschka, an opera goer himself. His stunning version of the original plot and the otherworldly events which inspired Mozart’s glorious music showcases his interpretation from the storytelling front curtain at the start, to the radiant finale at the end. Readers will be exclaiming, Bravo!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Full disclosure: I'm not a Chris Raschka fan at all. In fact, I've pretty much hated every book of his that I've read. So why did I read this one? The subject matter. I wanted to see how he would turn Mozart's classic opera into a children's story.

When I was a kid, we had a cassette tape (yeah, yeah, yeah... I'm old) of a little production by Classical Kids called Mozart's Magic Fantasy. It used The Magic Flute as the basis of the story and then built around it. After reading Raschka's book, I think I understand why Mozart's Magic Fantasy was done the way it was: the original story is dated, sexist, nonsensical, and probably wouldn't interest children very much since it's all about horny people pining for each other.

I hate the illustrations, but your mileage may vary. However, I thought some of the little asides that Raschka threw in were unnecessary. And sexist:

Here, he's basically saying that girls are cowards. Remind me again what year it is? (Yes, I know the opera is old. But those illustrations aren't. Raschka could've just left us with the text, but instead he had to try to be cute. Sorry, but sexist stereotypes aren't cute.)

After this point, everything gets really awful, with a character committing sexual assault on a sleeping girl, people deciding they want to kill themselves because they can't have the boy/girl they want, and Papageno deciding to "settle" for an old woman because loving an "old sourpuss" is better than being alone (so now we're getting ageist, too!). I'm still confused over who the good guys and the bad guys are supposed to be here; aside from Monostatos (who's obviously bad), it's kind of unclear. However, I don't know if it's unclear because the original opera is unclear, or if Raschka just did a really poor job in retelling the story.

I'm kind of annoyed with Mozart, too, after reading this book. Maybe if Raschka hadn't emphasized all the sexist crap, I might've liked this one more. The story could've been updated, and the basic plot would've remained intact. As it is, though, this is pretty awful. I'm continually amazed at how Raschka manages to disturb me with his books (*cough*Arlene Sardine*cough*). I'm also baffled by the fact that his works are so popular.

I'm afraid I just don't get it.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 0/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 1.17 out of 5

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