I often read books that I don't like, but over the years, I've posted fewer and fewer negative reviews here. I recognize that a good deal of effort by many people goes into every published book. In many instances, a book is more than someone's dream realized; it is also a livelihood. Here at Shelf-employed, I prefer to focus on books that I consider to have value. If I review books I dislike for a magazine, website, or journal, my honest review will normally stay within the pages of the entity that requested my opinion.
All that aside, I feel an impulse to share my recent review from the February, 2015, issue of School Library Journal. It was the most peculiar, off-putting book I've reviewed in a long time.
BRAND, Russell. The Pied Piper of Hamelin: Russell Brand's
Trickster Tales. 1 CD. 45 min. S. & S. Audio. 2014.
$9.99. ISBN 9781442377325.
Gr 4–7-- In this retelling of the medieval German folktale, the hubris-filled residents of Hamelin are overrun by a polygamous, narco-egalitarian, rat collective of the worst order. Only "gammy-legged" Sam and his mother possess any measure of humility and kindness (for which they are later rewarded). As in the original, the citizens agree to pay the curious, almost otherworldly piper if he can remove the rats. When they later renege on their promise, the piper removes the children of Hamelin as well. As the musing, interrupting narrator, Brand quietly and thoughtfully delivers asides and astute observations as to the character of Hamelin's citizens, who include Fat Dave and Sexist Bob. As the piper, Brand's voice has an almost mesmerizing quality, like the legendary piper's music, lulling the listener into a contemplative state. Sadly, occasionally brilliant phrasing and subtle commentary are sandwiched between overly exuberant character voices and crass jokes. One can write a children's book with wryly amusing social commentary; one can write a children's book replete with poop and fart jokes. It is nearly impossible to balance the two. VERDICT It will be difficult for this book to find an audience outside Brand's existing fan base. Too bad. It had promise
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Coming Monday: a recent audiobook review of a book that I really liked!