Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and her Unicorn Adventure

 

By Dana Simpson

From the back cover

Phoebe and Her Unicorn is back with more sparkles than ever! In this fourth volume, join in the adventure as Phoebe and Marigold confront messy rooms, trouble at school, and a nasty case of “Sparkle Fever”. Follow with the pair back to Camp Wolfgang, where their old pals Sue (a.k.a. “Monster Girl”) and Ringo, the lake creature, remind them that being weird is WAY more fun than being normal.

My thoughts…

Dana Simpson started this book as part of a newspaper comic strip. She kept her characters, Phoebe and her unicorn, Marigold, as part of her books. Children, especially girls, seem fascinated by the idea of a magical unicorn friend and the weird, yet confident, personality of Phoebe. The book seems to consist of short separate incident that end in a valuable lesson or harmless humour. The main character, Phoebe, learn about time, friendship, and the acceptance of one’s “different” personality.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Page 41: Phoebe talks about her friend “who is a boy but not my boyfriend”.

Page 159: Phoebe writes a text to her parents while she’s away at summer camp saying that she thinks her unicorn is in love.

Pages 174-175: Phoebe’s unicorn and the sea monster talk about love and the unicorn is illustrated to kiss the monster on what seems to be its nose.

Violence

  • Phoebe’s summer camp friend talks about destroying things and setting things on fire. This is a quick reference however and isn’t entertained by Phoebe at all.

Profanity

Mild language: stupid, butt, boogerbrain.

Smoking/Intoxicants

Phoebe’s mother is illustrated holding a cup of wine while stating that Phoebe underestimates (the joy of) wine.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • Phoebe’s parents are very understanding and accepting of Phoebe’s “unique” personality and respect her imaginary unicorn.
  • Thanksgiving and Christmas are mentioned as well as Christmas gift exchange.

 

Positive messages

The book focuses on self-acceptance, and confidence. It also touches on several aspects in a child’s life including bullying and how to deal with school problems. There’s an interesting bit on the understanding of time and how stressing over time can sometimes get in the way of achieving goals.

Final Verdict

Dana Simpson’s unicorn book series seem to be attracting a lot of attention from children and parents alike. The subtle, yet unique humour makes the book appealing to all types of readers. The confidence that radiates from the protagonist, Phoebe, her unicorn, Marigold, as well as their summer camp friend, Sue, is plausible and serves as a great model to young readers. The overall message to young readers is about embracing and accepting themselves as unique beings that, may be different yet, special.

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers

By John Dougherty

From the back cover

Welcome to the kingdom of Great Kerfuffle!

Great Kerfuffle is really great. And there’s usually a kerfuffle (the clue’s in the name really). This particular kerfuffle started the day Stinkbomb’s twenty dollar bill went missing. Stinkbomb and his little sister Ketchup-Face know exactly who took it: the badgers. After all, they’re called badgers because they do bad things; otherwise they’d just be gers.

They bring news of the badgers’ treachery to King Toothbrush Weasel (don’t get us started on the story behind his name…), who sends them on a quest to rid the land of badgers. What follows is a full on kerfuffle-fest, containing: one deep dark forest, a grocery cart in distress, a song about jam-and, of course, a band of very tricky badgers.

Be prepared to laugh your socks off, and maybe your ears, too.

My thoughts…

This was a very funny, cute read. The plot goes in many random directions while maintaining a light, silly atmosphere. As an adult, I am not ashamed to say that I found myself giggling sometimes while reading it.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

None

Profanity

Ketchup-Face calls her brother an idiot and a “stupid frog-flavored envelope” in chapter 21.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

None

Positive messages

A nice big brother-little sister relationship is portrayed where they go on a silly adventure and work towards the same goal.

Final Verdict

The funny, easy-to-read nature of the book makes it a great choice for reluctant readers and young children in general.

Secret Agent Jack Stalwart: The Escape of the Deadly Dinosaur

By Elizabeth Singer Hunt

From the back cover

Meet Jack Stalwart, Code name COURAGE. Jack is an ordinary kid who becomes a secret agent by night, thwarting evil all over the world as he searches for his missing brother, Max.

DESTINATION: UNITED STATES

An eager young scientist has brought to life a dangerous flesh-eating dinosaur by crossing its DNA with that of his pet dog, Freddie. Can Secret Agent Jack Stalwart capture the dinosaur before it destroys New York City?

My thoughts…

There are 14 books in this series. This is a review of the first one.

I like this type of books for the thrill it provides young readers and the ideologies it instills that they can achieve so much more with knowledge and courage. It gives children the feeling that the world is truly at their fingertips and all they have to do is work hard towards their passion. Jack Stalwart learns about geography and the species of dinosaurs in the midest of an exciting adventure. Jack Stalwart’s adventures are fascinating and educational at the same time, but they are carried out without the knowledge of his parents.

 

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None.

Violence

None. There’s a dinosaur that destroys streets and scares people but does not lead to any casualties or physical human harm.

Profanity

None.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

None. With the exception that the main character has joined the Secret Agency without the knowledge of his parents and is transported to different destinations around the world at night to carry out his missions.

Positive messages

  • Jack Stalwart risks his life by joining the Secret Agency in an attempt to find his missing older brother.
  • Jack Stalwart is very well-mannered among adults
  • This book provides a brief introduction to New York City, and it seems that each book in the series focuses on a country/city with some information provided.
  • A nice lesson on dinosaurs is presented in an interesting manner.

Final Verdict

Children would find this book exciting for it’s adventurous content and parents would be delighted for the history and dinosaur lessons interwound within the storyline. There is, however, a number of grammatical and spelling mistakes that left me wondering where the editor was at while editing the book.

The Baby-sitters Club: Mary Anne saves the day

By Raina Telgemeier

From the back cover

When The Baby-sitters Club gets into a huge fight, Mary Anne is left to her own devices. She has to eat by herself in the school cafeteria, figure out how to make new friends, and deal with her overprotective father. But the worst happens when she finds herself in a baby-sitting emergency and can’t turn to her friends for help. Will Mary Anne solve her problems and save The Baby-sitters Club from falling apart?

My thoughts…

This is the third book in the graphic series The Baby-sitters Club. A fight strikes between the girls of the baby sitters club resulting in a near collapse of their business. Mary Anne starts questioning her father’s strict parenting from the way he makes her wear her hair to how late he allows her to stay out on weeknights and weekends. At the end of the book, Mary Anne and her new friend from school discover that their parents used to be high school sweethearts.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Mary Anne’s father has been a widower since Mary Anne was 2 years old, and Dawn’s mother has been recently divorced. The girls discover that their respective parents used to be high school sweethearts and start speaking to each other about how “dreamy eyed” their parents get when they mention one another. Towards the end of the book Mary Anne’s father asks Dawn’s mother out on a date and she accepts, their daughters get excited.

Violence

There’s a mention of one of the character’s mothers to have died when the girl was 2 years old.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None.

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • A girl from the babysitters club fights with her father and raises her voice at him for being too strict with her (not allowing her to stay at babysitting jobs until 10 PM like her friends and watching over her clothes and hair style). She states that she feels bad for treating her father this way but does not apologize. Her father comes to terms with the fact that his daughter has grown up at the end of the book and gives her some leeway.
  • A woman hopes the groundhog sees his shadow referencing a prediction to an early start to spring.
  • The girls toast with pizza at the end of the story.

 

Positive Messages

  • Mary Anne introduces the reader to her friend Stacy where she states that Stacy is so “glamorous, she even manages her diabetes in style”. This statement could possibly impact kids with diabetes in a positive manner, helping them realize that it is possible to manage such disease and live your life normally.
  • Mary Anne and her father say a prayer before dinner and pray for Mary Anne’s dead mother. Mary Anne mentions that her father prays for her mother before every meal.

 

Final Verdict

This may be a fun read among pre-teens. The idea of forming a babysitting club may give some inspiration for hard work and entrepreneurship. Two of the characters’ parents (now single) reconnect after many years of separation and agree to go on a date to rekindle their old love relationship. This part of the story is not the main theme but it is however emphasized on several occasions.

Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 (Book 11)

By Dav Pilkey

 

From the back cover

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO FLUSH…

The Turbo Toilet 2000 strikes back! The carnivorous commode known for devouring everything in its path has built up a real appetite… for REVENGE! Luckily, the fate of humanity is once again in the hands of George and Harold and their annoying nemesis Melvin Sneedly. Will Wedgie Power prevail? Or will the amazing Captain Underpants be flushed away forever?

My thoughts…

Captain Underpants is the most banned book in schools by parents and teachers in America. However, I have seen books of this series in almost every 3rd-5th grade student’s hands. Kids find them funny, silly, and interesting and many parents are encouraged to purchase them for their reluctant readers. I have read numerous reviews on this book before writing my own and I found that adults either really love it or they really hate it. I am not surprised. Here’s a breakdown of the contents of this book in the series:

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None except at the end there is a subtle mention of animals mating, the kids scream out “eeeww” and one of the children questions “how could a mammal mate with a reptile?” Only to be met with more “eeww’s” from the other kids. This is all that is mentioned though.

Violence

There are countless scenes of cartoon violence. The violence is mostly of Captain Underpants fighting with a giant toilet.

Profanity

Mild language including the words idiot, dumb, and the word fat was directed to the robot.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– Captain Underpants books have been banned from many schools because parents and teachers believe that the stories encourage young children to disobey and insult authority figures, especially school authority.
– The school teachers and principal are portrayed as evil and heartless bullies.
– The boys prank their school staff and trick them into believing that they were living a dream and we suddenly find the whole school running around in their underwear (Chapters 23 and 24 see pictures below). They all get arrested and sent to jail for this behaviour.
– A school staff pulls down a police officer’s pants in chapter 24, however she gets punished for that with jail time.
– The school principal suddenly gains superpowers while wearing underpants and a cape.
– There are many drawings of rear ends in this book
– Melvin is portrayed as the saviour, the book states that “Whenever anybody needed help, all they had to do was lift their heads to the sky and cry out ‘YO! Big Melvin!’ And Big Melvin would drop whatever he was doing and zip to the scene and save the day”. This falls under the same ideologies as seeking help from a superhuman, like Superman, or any creation instead of the Creator, instead, children should be taught to lift up their heads and cry out “Ya Allah!”.
– There’s an illustration of a boy kicking a monster in his private area.
– There are two pages of this book where Captain Underpants is drawn spanking a robot on it’s human-like rear end (Chapter 29, see picture at the bottom of this review)

Final Verdict

This book contains parts that are supposedly written by the two boys, George and Harold. These parts of the book contain terribly misspelled words (like “prinsiple” instead of “principal”, “blackmale” instead of “blackmail”, “hipnitized” for “hypnotized” to name a few) which made me wonder about the type of influence this would have on a beginner reader’s writing and reading abilities. The book also includes made up words like “evilly” and “superherodom”.

Captain Underpants books have been banned from many schools in the United States for understandable reasons. I have pointed out all the controversial points in the above breakdown and I leave it up to the parents and guardians to decide whether they feel the books will have a negative influence on their children or not.

Amulet #6: Escape from Lucien

By Kazu Kibuishi

 

From the back cover

A WORTHY MISSION … OR A TRAP?

Navin and his classmates journey to Lucien, a city ravaged by war and plagued by mysterious creatures, where they search for a beacon essential to their fight against the Elf King. Meanwhile, Emily heads back into the Void with Max, one of the Elf King’s loyal followers, when she learns his darkest secrets. The stakes, for both Emily and Navin, are higher than ever.

In a gist…

This is the sixth book of the series Amulet. Emily and Navin continue their quest to restore peace in different cities and fight the Elf King and his followers. The book carries on with the same concepts as the previous books of the series with one exception; the nullification of the mother’s concerns. I couldn’t help but notice by this sixth book of the series how naive Emily and Navin’s mother is and how they lead their own lives their way and she just follows their lead. It must be every child’s wish to have parents that let him do whatever he wants while controlling his parents as well but it was quite disturbing by this sixth book. The mother keeps babbling about how the kids shouldn’t be going out to fight and how they should be sending older people to fight but the children always ignore her or laugh her off and continue with their mission. The children’s neglect to their mother’s advice and commands are quite concerning in my opinion.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

– Their are ghost-like creatures that take over and control some residents of a town.
– An elf punches a boy in the nose and blood is illustrated dripping down the boy’s face.
– The ghost controlling the amulet is displayed and takes away a life.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

– The dismissal of Emily and Navin’s mother’s concerns and advice, as mentioned above, is evident on page 20 of the book.
– On page 119, the mayor of Lucien states that she doesn’t believe in “prophecies, miracles, or premonitions” and Navin reassures her that he doesn’t either. The mayor is referring to prophecies given by talking trees but generalizing that one doesn’t believe in all miracles and prophecies may put doubts into young readers’ minds about the miracles and prophecies preformed by real prophets and messengers of Allah.
– the Stonekeeper that allowed his amulet to control him got the ghost of his amulet to prolong his life (page 182) but once her tried to get rid of the ghost’s control of him, it took his life away stating that it let him live longer than he would have without his help. The mere concept of anything prolonging one’s life is haram in Islam. This part of the book contains a form of Shirk in Allah SWT.

Final Verdict

The children’s mother is negated for most of the book, a ghost is believed to have prolonged a boy’s life, and two characters bluntly state that they don’t believe in prophecies and miracles. These are the main concerns I have for this book.

Amulet #5: Prince of the Elves

By Kazu Kibuishi

 

From the back cover

Emily survived the chaos of the Guardian Academy, but Mac Griffin has stolen the Mother Stone. With it, the Elf King forges new Amulets that will give him the power to invade and destroy the nation of Windsor. Emily land. Her friends lead the soldiers of the Cielis Guard in a fight to stop him, but Max stands in their way. And when she seeks information from the Voice of her Amulet, she discovers that the Voice is much more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

In a gist…

This book continues with the idea of the power of illusions.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

None other than the same type of supernatural battles that have been taking place throughout the series.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

The book emphasizes the importance of family and strong family ties.

Final Verdict

This book displays supernatural powers and illusions while portraying the dangers of losing control of one’s self while seeking power.

 

Amulet #4: The Last Council

By Kazu Kibuishi

 

From the back cover

Emily and her friends think they’ll find the help they need in Cielis, but something isn’t right. Streets that were once busy are deserted, and the townspeople who are left live in crippling fear. Emily is exported to the Academy where she’s expected to compete for a spot on the Guardian Council, the most powerful Stonekeepers. But as the number of competitors gets smaller and smaller, a terrible secret is slowly uncovered – a secret that, if left buried, means certain destruction of everything Emily fights for.

In a gist…

The magic and superpowers displayed in this book are extreme. Extreme illusions are portrayed and the idea of gaining power through magic is emphasized. The Guardians of the Council at one point say to the Stonekeepers “show us your strength and we will make you a God”. This is a strong statement encouraging Shirk (denying the Oneness of Allah) and hence should be a reason for us to discourage our children from reading this book.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

The Stonekeepers are put in an area where they are expected to fight one another to death. One of the Stonekeepers jump at another and screams “I am going to kill you.
Vicious-looking creatures eat up some characters. No blood is shown but the idea is evident.

Profanity

Mild language like “shut up” is used at times.

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/ Islamic Values

The book emphasizes the importance of family and strong family ties.

Final Verdict

A character claims he can make the Stonekeeper a god on page 107. This is a great sin in Islam. If you feel the need for your child to read this book, you may be able to skip the bottom line of page 107 to avoid reading such Shirk and ensure your child understands the severity of such words.

Amulet #3: The Cloud Searchers

By Kazu Kibuishi

 

From the back cover

AN IMPOSSIBLE JOURNEY WITH DANGER AT EVERY TURN…
Emily, Navin, and their crew of resistance fighters charter an airship and set off in search of the lost city of Cialis. There they hope to find help from the Guardian Council’s powerful Stonekeepers. It’s a mission that Alledia’s survival depends on, and time is running out – Emily’s got to find Cielis before the Elf Kind finds her.

In a gist…

Book Three of the graphic novel series Amulet. Emily is still fighting the power of her amulet and trying to control it instead of being controlled by it. The only inappropriate seen I found in this book is that the kids, along with their escorts, walk into a bar that is referred to as a “drinking hole” where the customers are shown carrying beer mugs and later on are shown getting drunk.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

Much of this book is about using superpowers to blast off individuals and throwing enemies off of hills.
A hitman is hired to kill the King Elf’s son and another elf soldier.

Profanity

Mild language like “shut up” is used at times.

Smoking/Intoxicants

The lead characters walk into a “drinking hole” where pilots are getting drunk

Degradation of Family/ Islamic Values

None.

Final Verdict

Alcohol and violence are portrayed in this novel.

Amulet #2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse

By Kazu Kibuishi

 

From the back cover

Graphic novel star Kazu Kibuishi returns with his mysterious world full of new allies… and old enemies!

Emily and Navin’s mother is still in a coma from the arachnopod’s poison, and there’s only one place to find help: Kanalis, the bustling, beautiful city of waterfalls. But when Em, her brother, and Miskit and the rest of the robotic crew aboard the walking house reach the city, they quickly realize that seeking help is looking for trouble, dangerous trouble.

In a gist…

This book has a much intense plot compared to the first one in the series. The demons are illustrated with much more detail that could be found disturbing for young readers. There is some reference to some trees foretelling the future, which at first sounded alarming to me but later on in the book they explain that they cannot see the future but can predict based on past events. A curse was put on a city where it’s people started turning into animals. One of the animals is a pig and is shown on several pages. The amulet that Emily found in the first book gives her a lot of power which she needs to learn to control. The amulet speaks to her mind and she has to train her brain not to listen to it. I liked how the book emphasizes the importance of controlling one’s self when given great powers.

Extramarital Love/Relationship

None

Violence

– The elves’ mission is to kill Emily and her aid. Orders to kill Emily are given throughout the book.
– some killing between the elves is shown, no blood though.
– Very graphic depictions of beasts

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/ Islamic Values

None, the family members put themselves through danger to save one another.

Final Verdict

Overall, this book seems harmless for your kids to read inshallah if you keep the above points in mind.