Princess Hannah and the Little Black Kitten (Tiara Club) by Vivian French
|Princess Hannah and the Little Black Kitten (Tiara Club) by Vivian French|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Magda Healey|
|Summary: As an early reader, this will probably work reasonably OK, as it's got large type, simple vocab with an odd challenging word thrown in and some mildly humorous illustrations. But considering the total saccharine princess overkill topped with an appearance of a little fluffy animal; Bookbag wouldn't bother - unless your daughter refuses to read anything else.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? No|
|Pages: 80||Date: October 2007|
|Publisher: Orchard Books|
I sometimes wonder if I am not unfair, criticising the assembly-line productions of collectible children's book series that seem to be more prominent (and substantially longer!) now than ever. After all, they do what they are supposed to do, the publishers and presumably the authors can laugh all the way to the bank, and if the children are reading, isn't it better than if they are not??
The early reader niche is a hard one, because the text needs to be simple and easy to deal with for the approximately 6 year old who has just started to read by themselves. The fairy and princessy series provide this just-begging-to-read material in a format that might appeal to many girls of that age, and thus should, in theory, encourage them to develop skills they will hopefully soon use to read something better.
But these things are, I tend to believe, made as a pure money spinner. They are an early-reader equivalent of Pokemon cards, with endless sub series within series within themed groups. They encourage collection mania in all possible ways and I sincerely doubt whether their value as a painless way to ease a child into reading on their own is worth the expense or the attention and time that could be used on something just a little bit more challenging.
But enough of the general musings, what about the title that provoked them? Princess Hannah and the Little Black Kitten belongs to the endless series of Tiara Club, which consists of little books containing "adventures" of princesses sent for schooling in The Princess Academy. They get educated with emphasis on the arts and the outdoor activities, in subjects like flower arranging, posture, etiquette, games and dancing. The school, is, naturally a boarding school (and who, apart from those who already do, never wished to be in one? Certainly since Harry Potter, but the genre harks back to Mallory Towers). Sparkles, ball gowns and tiaras abound. All the girls are very pretty, most are saccharinely kind and they all pout. The adventures are anything but, and there is nothing - but nothing at all - challenging in the storyline, characters or setting.
In Princess Hannah and the Little Black Kitten the girls are in the Pearl Palace, and dashing for breakfast on their very first day there. They find a little black kitten: sweet, soft, fluffy and simply gorgeous. They miss breakfast, and summoned in front of the King Everest (presumably the headmaster - and the only male in the house), they get into trouble: nobody believes their tale of the little black kitten as pets are not allowed in the Pearl Palace. Will the girls manage to show that they are truthful and kind? And how?
As you can see, the whole thing fulfils the fairy/princess format that little girls are showered with all the time, and does it to such a the degree that the Rainbow Magic series is by comparison a tomboyish thriller. I don't personally believe that reading princess tales and watching fairy films turns little girls into girlishly-twitterishly-feminine and externalities-obsessed bigger girls as I think that so called "real life" is much more important, but I think there is something at least vaguely demeaning and exploitative in weaving a 27 volume (priced £3.99 each) series in this convention.
As an early reader for those who struggle, this Tiara Club book will probably work reasonably OK, as it's very short, got particularly large type, simple vocab with only an odd challenging word thrown in and some mildly humorous illustrations. But unless your daughter refuses to read anything else, I wouldn't bother.
This volume was sent to the Bookbag by the publishers.
If they're interested in the school setting why not try The Worst Witch to the Rescue by Jill Murphy? The book is well-written and the story line will keep them turning the pages. For an early reader we can recommend Tanya Landman's Waking Merlin. These books are longer, though and here at Bookbag Towers we're beginning to wonder if the success of Tiara Club and Rainbow Magic is due not just to the fact that they are undemanding in content and vocab, but also because they're shorter.
You can read more book reviews or buy Princess Hannah and the Little Black Kitten (Tiara Club) by Vivian French at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Princess Hannah and the Little Black Kitten (Tiara Club) by Vivian French at Amazon.com.
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