Posted by Venus on Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Labels: picture book review
Illustrations by Tricia Tusa
Publisher: Random House for Young Readers
Release Date: September 23, 2014
Marlene is the self-appointed Queen of the playground. And everywhere else for that matter. Known for her cruel ways, Marlene has all the children afraid of her, that is until Freddy stands up to her. Soon, Marlene finds that her mean ways aren't making her friends or enemies.
I guess it was inevitable that Jane Lynch, who has made a living out of playing the bully, would write a book about bullying. Just like it was no surprise when Julianna Moore wrote about redheads. As with any celebrity children's book, I go into these things with a good deal of skepticism. It's not that I don't think these celebrities can't write for children, after all we creative types have a tendency to be good at many different creative things. It's that I imagine they don't hear a whole lot of no's. This is how I imagine these things go down:
Celebrity: (while doing an interview) And one day I hope to write a children's book because I love kids.
Editor/Publisher: OMG! Who is his/her publicist? Call them up. Tell them we will sign their book.
Random Logical Publishing Person: But what is the book about?
Editor/Publisher: Doesn't matter. We need that book. A conservative print run of 200,000 books should be good.
Random Logical Publishing Person: What if they can't write?
Editor/Publisher: We will hire a ghost writer or maybe some people with degrees and they can do most of the writing and vetting.
Random Logical Publishing Person: ummmm....
Editor/Publisher: Look. I hate it too, but this will sell. And if we keep publishing a few celebrity books every year, then we can afford to publish the really good books by authors no one knows...yet. It's a devil's bargain.
Random Logical Publishing Person: Sigh. Should I call them or you?
Now, I do work in publishing, but I work for an academic publisher which means it is a completely different ballgame over here. To be fair, I'm sure the conversation is much more nuanced than this.
Where's the review you ask? It is simply this, I am surprised that two psychologists helped write this book because Marlene, the Queen of Mean, very magically stops being mean, and simply because someone finally stood up to her. I stood up to my bully once. I got punched in the stomach and she continued to bully people. Another bully was brazen in his attempts to humiliate me, even in front of adults, and his parents seemed to encourage it. What did I get when I told the other kids that he was just a bully and a liar? Another punch to the gut. Literally. Some kids may grow out of their bullying ways, some only do it to one child and then learn their lesson, and some are psychotic sadists that will continue to bully people in oh so subtle ways for the rest of their lives.
There were some nice lines in the rhyming text and the illustrations are engaging, but the story just felt too neat and tidy. If only we could all deal with our bullies this way and then watch as they magically transform into nicer people. I like the message of not letting bullies steal your power, but felt like it could have been presented very differently.