Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chiggers: Book Review by ChristineMM



Title: Chiggers
Author: Hope Larson
Genre: Graphic Novel, ages 9-12, girl interest content
Publication:
Ginee Seo Books, June 2008
Retail price: $17.99 hardcover, $9.99 paperback

Rating: 2 stars of 5

How this book came to me: I received a review copy of this book through the Amazon Vine program. With the growing popularity of graphic novels especially for the Young Adult genre (ages 12-16) I was curious what a graphic novel for ages 9-12 was like as well as what the content of girl-interest, realistic fiction was like, versus the more popular superhero, fantasy genres or manga that seem to be more common in this genre.

Being a graphic novel, this is a story told in comic book style and the general genre is realistic fiction. The artwork is black ink on a white page. The storyline is a girl returning to a co-ed summer camp and dealing with typical social interactions that happen in camp with teenagers who they knew previously and also with new kids they meet.

I felt the storyline was very ho-hum. The girls gossip continuously, they worry what people think about them, who is in, who is out, who is stabbing someone in the back, so on and so forth.

One girl seems to be on psychiatric medication (welcome to the 2000s) and is forced to leave camp when the management finds out she stopped taking her medication and is a risk for the camp. Another girl leaves due to chiggers in her pubic area. Most of the story is about who likes or hates who, hating the new girl and so forth. Since one hated girl is part Cherokee, one wonders if their hatred is race based, but it is not explored. All relationships are all so superficial and fake, even the girl who is the main character is not a true friend to the new girl. She says she’ll write to her friend but immediately says she doesn’t know her address, and that she used her bandana for a bookmark for a while until it disappeared. Superficial! Regarding romance, one girl gets a crush on a boy, dreams of him, fantasizes about being with him, kisses him, and at another point, another girl tries to move in on him.

I really felt that the story stunk. It also didn’t flow well as an overall story, it was choppy because of the way one topic was explored and ended, then picking up a new topic.

It was not entertaining to me and believe me, I find many good juvenile fiction and young adult books entertaining (some more so than fiction books written for adult women).

No deep lessons were learned about friendships, in fact I felt this book justified and tried to show bad social experiences are normal and fine. In other words, negative social interactions take place and are just left there to be accepted, no real negative ramifications come from mistreating people and so forth.

I see nothing of value in having a girl aged 9-12 read this story.

I’d love to see all children love reading and to find pleasure in reading books and I realize comics are typical transitional reading for many readers, girls and boys, from when I was in this age (1970s) to the children of today. I’m not hostile toward or anti-graphic novel or anti-comic, believe me. I just honestly can’t see anything redeeming about a tween-aged girl reading this book. Perhaps after reading this, they may think all books are boring and lack good stories. To me, reading a book and enjoying it should make the child want to find and read more and more books. If a book is boring, the book risks giving reading a bad rap.

Lastly I have a concern that children with various reading challenges find suitable reading material. I know some children with eye tracking problems (a learning disorder) love to read comics and graphic novels as the short sentences and different formatting are easier on their eyes. I am very open to the graphic novel format. However again this story was so lame that I don’t see anything redeeming about reading it, unless one is priming tweenage and teenaged girls only to read the likes of the Gossip Girl series.

I’m giving this 2 stars instead of 5 due to the decent artwork and the bravery of publishing a graphic novel for ages 9-12 with interest for girl readers.

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