Monday, January 18, 2010

Children's Book Review: Clifford's Birthday Party

I've talked about Clifford before, and I've reviewed one of Simone's books before. Now I'm combining the two for a Clifford book review.

Yesterday, Simone and I went to the library and had a wonderful time. I found some books that look interesting. We read The Pink Refrigerator (by Tim Egan), which is a very sweet book. While I was looking for gems to read, Simone found Clifford's Birthday Party, and read it peacefully until it was time to leave - at which point she wanted to bring it home...

So I did.

I'm not a fan of Clifford, or pretty much any cartoonish dog. They're all big, dumb, clumsy, destructive animals - and the stories just laugh it off as no big deal. Oh Clifford! (Marmaduke, Harold the Huge, etc.)

To nobody's surprise, the Birthday Party stuck to the standard script, making it another horrible book (that will soon disappear back to the library). Simone, if you're reading this, I love you dearly, but Clifford books are terrible. It's for your own good, trust me.

Page 1: you get the standard two line, "My name is Emily Elizabeth, and this is my dog Clifford." that seem to begin every Clifford story. He's having a party. Innocent enough.

Pages 2-4: Nobody shows up, where could they be? There they are, why didn't you show? Wow - 4 pages in and it's still pretty benign.

Page 5: It begins... the reason nobody showed up is "they didn't have very good presents for Clifford - not good enough for such a special friend." Moral: you had better bring awesome presents, or don't bother showing up. Birthday parties are about presents, nothing more.

Page 6: The book tries to smooth things over, "I told them not to be silly." (good start) "Clifford would like whatever they got for him." (ouch). Moral: go get me my damn presents! Notice the promise that Clifford would like what they gave him - we'll get back to that.

Page 7: everyone came to the party (bearing gifts).

Pages 8-11: Clifford gets an inflatable ball, everyone plays, and then Clifford begins his destructive streak: he pulls out the stopper, knocking some dogs over (Emily is actually frowning in that page). And it culminates on page 12: "That was a mistake." by the ball knocking everyone over and flying away (like a balloon). Not very destructive by Clifford's standards, yet the gift is lost to all and people were tossed around like rag dolls.

Pages 13-14: A piñata! Cool.

Pages 15-17: Clifford is given a stick and ... you guessed it ... he destroys everything in sight: the piñata is broken open , kids are running in fear (both the girl in yellow (Alisha) and Emily are running away from Clifford with worried faces - they're in a full sprint). Tree branches, fence posts and shed pieces are flying every which way. After the fleeing, the dogs look happy chewing on bones but the tree is dead, the fence is ruined, the shed is destroyed, a shovel and lawn mower are bent, and the bird path and picnic table are on their side. "we decided not to give Clifford any more piñatas." What they should have decided was to get rid of him, but then we wouldn't get the rest of the lovely story.

Pages 18-19: Time to take a break from the destruction but laugh at the present (a sweater) the next girl gives Clifford. ha ha ha, silly girl - to dumb to realize that the sweater would never fit a dog the size of her house...

Pages 20-22: Clifford gets a robotic dog, which he steps on and destroys. "They don't make toys the way they used to." Right... toys that could withstand a 10 ton animal stepping on them.

Pages 23-25: Clifford gets a gift certificate for a shampoo and haircut. Nice. Each person is shown thinking what funny hairdo Clifford would have. Surprisingly gentle humor.

Page 26: The true colors come to light, Emily thanks Cynthia for the gift but "slipped the certificate to Scott and Suzie." Yes, right in front of Cynthia, Emily re-gifts the gift. I'm not saying you need to use/keep all the gifts you get, but at least have the courtesy to wait until the person's back is turned before you ditch the gift. Oh, and what was that line about "Clifford would like whatever they got for him."? Liar.

Pages 27-30: The book ends with a huge cake, filled with Clifford's family, and the words "Clifford liked the presents his friends gave him, but having his family and friends with him was the best birthday present of all." Good last line half of the line. But the part about liking the gifts? He either destroyed the gifts, re-gifted them, or made fun of them. Sure, maybe he liked them, but he has a funny way of showing it.

All in all, I give this book a "D". It would be a failure except for the part about family and friends being the best part.

I can't believe the book was written in 1988. It reads like it was out of the 50s or 60s.

It's too bad Simone likes Clifford so much, I really struggle with it.

No comments: