Book Review or, Why We Should Let Kids Read What They Want

One of my goals this year is to read outside my comfort zone. During any given year I read a lot of books and books of all kinds. Sort of. But there are some kid’s books that I just… can’t. I’m aware of them. I recommend them from time to time. But I have zero interest in actually reading them. This isn’t a great trend. It’s totally possible to do reader’s advisory without reading the books your patron has read or the ones you’re recommending, but it’s easier if you’re at least familiar with them.

So my first book for this challenge is Blossom the Flower Girl Fairy, by Daisy Meadows (kind of), part of the Rainbow Magic series taking up about four feet of shelf space in juvenile departments across the country.

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Blossom is part of a fairy world that regularly relies on two human friends, Rachel and Kirsty, to solve problems in the fairy world. In return, the fairies also visit and help out in the human world. Luckily, there is basically a fairy for everything you can think of, so if your wedding is about to be derailed by fighting flower girls, there’s a fairy for that. If your soccer team isn’t doing so hot, there’s a fairy for that too. And if it’s been a really long week at work and you just got home and changed into comfy pants before realizing you’re out of cinnamon bun Oreos, I can only assume there’s fairy for that also.

These books are pretty formulaic, which does make them good for beginning readers. They know what to expect, they’re familiar with the world and the characters, so there’s no need for much exposition. They follow a predictable format which is, again, really good for beginning readers. They’re short, making it easier for new readers to finish them, but they have chapters, so they’re an excellent step for kids ready to read “big kid” books.

They’re not perfect. In this volume, Rachel’s aunt’s business is referred to both as “Fairy Tale Weddings” and “Fairytale Weddings,” which is a pretty glaring error, and it’s not the only one. There is no character growth or development, no surprising twists, not really even any challenging vocabulary, but reading them isn’t going to make a child a worse reader and will probably make lots of young readers happy, so I say, let them read.

I’m not sure I want to come across as a reviewer whose standard is, “If someone reads it and is subsequently happy, that’s enough,” but I spent my formidable years devouring the dozens of ghost-written The Baby-sitter’s Club books and I turned out okay. Better than okay, I think. Are there better books than Rainbow Magic? Sure. Are there better books than the Baby-sitter’s Club No Absolutely! Some kids will want them. Some kids won’t. Some kids will want them eventually- but only after being allowed to spend lots of time reading Rainbow Magic and Puppy Place and The Baby-sitter’s Club.

There are a lot of books we pick up as adults and think, “Okay, so this is not good,” and a lot of time we’re right. They’re not good! But they’re not for us either. The first books that we choose are the stories that stick with us. Those are the books that turn a child into a reader. For me, that was Kristy’s Great Idea. For a little kid today, it might be Blossom the Bridesmaid Fairy. Neither of us will be wrong, neither of us will be less discerning readers, but both of us will get a joy from those books that will make us want more. In my book, that makes a story worthy of (at least some) praise.

This went in an unexpected direction, but to conclude with the review, Rainbow Magic is perfect for beginning readers who enjoy predictability and series fiction. It will appeal to kids interested in stories about magic/fairies, friendship, and mild drama. For more stories about friendship and pretty things, try Fancy Nancy. For more books about magic and friendship, try The Never Girls.

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