Sunday, November 3, 2019

Review - The Goblin Goes to School

The Goblin Goes to School
by Sara Daniell
illustrated by Alli Kappen
Date: 2019
Publisher: BHC Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

It's Patrick's first day of Pre-k but everything goes wrong when his imaginary friend, the Goblin, sneaks to school in his backpack. What mischief will the Goblin cause and can Patrick and his new friends teach that sneaky goblin a lesson on being a good student?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think I understand what the author was trying to accomplish here. The premise isn't bad. Unfortunately, the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

First of all, the synopsis is entirely misleading. The illustration on the cover is the only indication of the Goblin sneaking to school. In the actual story, Patrick and the Goblin are at home, and then they're suddenly both at school. The other part of the synopsis that doesn't make sense is about Patrick and his friends teaching the Goblin a lesson. That doesn't happen. In fact, Patrick is such a brat that he doesn't have any friends. The only resolution to the Goblin storyline is at the end when Patrick decides to leave his terrible friend at home the next day (as if that will suddenly turn him into a child with perfect behaviour).

The problem is that the book isn't quite sure of how to get its message across. I was reminded a little bit of Sam's Pet Temper by Sangeeta Bhadra, in which a little boy blames his outbursts on a pet temper that followed him home one day. That same idea might have worked here, except for one thing: Patrick behaves badly--and states that he's behaving badly--and then blames the behaviour on the Goblin. There's no metaphor and it's not subtle... and so Patrick comes across as a child who has major behavioural issues.

I'm also not a fan of the way the reader is expected to understand phrases like, "My teacher got mad and made me move my clip to yellow." This is obviously referring to some sort of behavioural chart, but not every school is going to use the same system (and I'm still not sure what the "clip" refers to, since there's nothing that looks like a clip in the illustrations).

As for the illustrations... Let's just say I'm not a fan. The first time we see Patrick, he looks like a teenager. One of his classmates actually looks like an adult male. But... these kids are supposedly in preschool! (I still can't wrap my brain around that. Do preschool kids usually get on a bus by themselves? Also, if this is his first day, as the synopsis suggests, you'd think someone would've explained the rules before meting out the discipline.)

Overall, this is a valiant effort, but it doesn't quite work for me. If a child has the emotional maturity to realize that he should leave the Goblin at home, why is he acting out in the first place? It just doesn't make a lot of sense.

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

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

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

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