January 31, 2006

I Thought I Could Stand It, But This Board Book Abridgement Sucks

little_engine_orig.jpg little_engine_boardbk.gif

It was pretty obvious to me that the story had been shortened, but the artwork looked familiar enough, and the trademarked [seriously] phrasing was all there. But the more I read The Little Engine That Could in boardbook form, the more it bugged. The drawings were, in fact, copies/knock-offs of the original, and the story, well, there was barely any story at all. One train broke down, another came by, and they drove over the hill, no problem.

It wasn't until we headed to the library that I thought I'd see what we were missing. How about EVERYTHING? It turns out that not only is the original story far more developed, and suspenseful, and emotionally engaging, but the artwork [by George and Doris Hauman] is ten times better. The board book is a cheap, empty, poorly conceived shell by comparison. Clearly, the form factor has its indestructible advantages, but maybe it's just better to wait until you can handle the real thing?

Right in the middle of my indignation, the kid brought over Clifford, who I hate [thanks to inane boardbooks with no plot, character development, or well-executed artwork]. Surprise, the original turns out to be decent, and full of scenes that have been ripped off or poorly reworked into brand extensions designed to suck money out of unsuspecting parents' or giftgivers' wallets. Is this ever NOT the case? Because I'd like to know.

The Little Engine That Could: Original = Good, Boardbook = Bad
Clifford's Puppy Days: Original = Better, Boardbooks = Numbing


The boardbooks of The Big Red Barn, Goodnight, Gorilla and Five Little Ducks all suffer a bit because the original illustrations are so detailed, but everything is there.

There's not much story to cut out, though. It appears the kid likes minimal story lines with really rich pictures that we can talk about at length. Just not a narrative kind of guy, I guess.

[we've been reading/discussingGG in boardbook since day 5 or so; that balloon does get a little small, but it does ok. I think you'd go blind reading Rathman's other book, 10 min. to bedtime, in boardbook, though. -ed.]

Wait until you hit the new Thomas knock-off books, in which Thomas and the other trains are actually mean to each other instead of just delightfully naughty in that pluckish British way. Really unfortunate, but I guess it's all about the Benjamins even/especially in the children's section.

I'm thinking there's got to be a way just to stick with board-books-written-as-board-books during the BB phase, and save the good books to be read in their original form.

The Seuss board bucks are the same way. We decided to pretty much stop buying the board books once discovered. We'll still get enough from family.

Did you notice that all of the trains are female in the board book? I'm not saying. I'm just saying.

[huh? not unless they're all drag king trains. in which case, they should have all been nominated for Golden Globes. -ed.]

Count the number of pages in your paper book versus your board book and then think about what content you would cut out to make the longer story fit the shorter board book format. You're dealing with a physical limitation of the board book format.

I see the simplified storyline as an introduction to characters and when my kid matures, the authoritative paper book will be ripe for introduction, familiar and new at the same time.

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