Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp

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Title: Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp

Premise:

When the Ambassador from the Orient visits, Miss Bianca learns of an unfortunate page boy who is condemned to death for sneezing in the Ranee’s sherbet.  Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to “the Orient” to try and save the poor boy.  But will their plan succeed when nobody seems to know anything about him or his whereabouts?

My thoughts:

I just finished this book tonight and I came away disappointed.  I remember reading it when I was younger, but I must not have been quite as critical back then.  There were some things that I picked up on this time through which really put a bad taste in my mouth.

Let’s start with the good, though.  I love Miss Bianca and Bernard.  They have such lovely personalities and work very well as a team.  Bernard’s devotion to Miss Bianca is so, so sweet.  The premise of the story is also promising.  Our intrepid duo travels to “the Orient” to rescue an unfortunate page boy who has been sentenced to death.  The characters we meet in the palace court are interesting and fairly well developed.  While the plot is very simple, it’s quite adequate for an elementary chapter book.  And the illustrations by Erik Blegvad are very nicely done.

On to the bad.  Throughout the book, the language referring to “the Orient” is exceptionally outdated and imprecise.  Where exactly is “the Orient”?  Why can’t we name a specific country with a specific language?  What exactly is “Oriental writing”?  What does it mean to be “Orientally thoughtless”?  It doesn’t take a genius to pick up on the idea that the writer views “the Orient” as a generic group of people living in the East whose way of life is inferior to that of the West.  Based on the details contained in the book, I believe the author had India in mind as the setting, but it’s never actually stated.  Are we trying to make our children stupid by teaching them that the entirety of the East is one homogeneous and backward group of people?

Quite frankly, I won’t be keeping this book around the house because I would be mortified to have my children read the book and start talking about “the Orient” or “Oriental writing”.  I would rather they learn about specific countries, languages, and people groups.

I don’t recommend Miss Bianca in the Orient to children because of what I perceive as subtle prejudice.  However, if you’re an adult fan of Miss Bianca and Bernard, you might want to read this book to round out your knowledge of all of their adventures.


Possible Objections:

  • Prejudice against “Orientals”

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Snow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan

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My kids are big fans of graphic novels but many of their choices don’t appeal to me.  So I went on a search for some graphic novels that would catch my attention.  Snow White: A Graphic Novel is one of them.  It is exactly what it sounds like–a retelling of the Snow White story in the form of a graphic novel.

Premise:

Snow White’s mother dies and her father marries the “Queen of Broadway.”  Unfortunately, her stepmother is jealous of Snow White and tries to have her killed.  Snow escapes and finds shelter with a group of street boys.  When the “Queen” hunts Snow White down, her new friends come to her rescue.  Alas, they are too late and Snow is poisoned.  Have no fear–a handsome detective, Mr. Prince, comes to her rescue!

My thoughts:

This book was really charming and rather a clever retelling of the traditional Snow White story.  It’s set in 1920’s Manhattan and the whole book has that 1920’s vibe to it.  The characters are reimagined in slightly different roles, but they still work well together.  I love the take that the author had on the dwarves.  As street boys they are so compelling–I just want to wrap them all up in a hug!

The illustrations were simple, but still really nice.  They do an excellent job of conveying a sense of the action and feelings, following a very natural flow.  The darkness and sort of smudged style of illustration ties in well to the 1920’s theme.

I recommend Snow White to anybody who enjoys a unique retelling of a fairytale.  It’s suitable for children, but adult fans will get a kick out of the book, too.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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