Posted by: heartfull | December 10, 2007

Book Review

We are in the middle of The Tail of Emily Windsnap and it is driving me crazy. I have to start this off by saying that Bird and Mare love this book. They can’t wait to read a chapter each night and, in fact, their enthusiasm seems to match mine for Harry Potter. I’m going to chalk this up to youth, because this book is so not in the same league.

There are parts that I like. The story is original and the characters well developed and true. The foreshadowing is a little obvious (why exactly does Emily believe Mr. Beezus – he is obviously nefarious or, at the very least, lying) and makes the story predictable, but then again, I’m a seasoned reader. Our discussions after each chapter have revealed it is not so obvious to Bird and Mare.

My problem, though, is in Kessler’s descriptive style. I would like to email her this quote:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

— William Strunk Jr., in Elements of Style

She is not redundant, necessarily. She is flowery and overly descriptive. The similes used are tiresome.


I am not against similes and metaphors. The girls and I read another book that I never listed here because it was read while we were still reading Holes. Lenore Look’s book Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything was wonderful (meant for a younger audience than Tail, but I think that fact speaks even more to the writing.) Ruby is a second generation Chinese-American. Look’s writing reflects this in the tradition of Amy Tan. The book is filled with metaphors and similes – but that is typical of the Chinese culture and thus appropriate. Look’s metaphors are sometimes silly, always descriptive and never trite.

I read the reviews of Tail at Amazon and see that it is well-loved by the kid-reviewers, so I don’t think I have to worry about Bird and Mare’s critical skills. We will continue to read this book and may even go ahead and get the next one as one adult reviewer said it was much better. I’m willing to do this because Bird and Mare are enthralled, and any book that inspires such enthusiasm is fun to read aloud with them. Just not as fun as Harry Potter.


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