Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Review: Her Name Was Beauty


I've read on book blogs that it is difficult to find a negative review of a book on book blogs. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, most of us book bloggers are nice people. We don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, so, if we don't like a book, we mark it DNF (did not finish)and just don't review it, or if we promised to publish something as part of a tour, we put up canned content, or do an author interview, or something other than saying "I hated it, save your money". Secondly, we know that authors put something of themselves into books, and hope that, just as we all prefer different types of people as friends, we often prefer different books, so, if we can't identify a particular problem with a book other than "I just didn't like it" we just choose not to say anything. Sometimes however, we promise a review in return for a copy of the book, and even though we give the author a choice between a bad review and no review, the author chooses a bad review.

My first problem with Her Name Was Beauty was identifying an intended audience. The book is less than thirty pages long, making you think it is a children's book. It also has large type. However, it has no pictures, and the language level is too high. It is about a mixed-race child's first day at preschool and here are some quotes (I can't reference the page because the pages are not numbered)

  • Play time was especially difficult for Beauty because the girls pulled her hair and made fun of her complexion and the boys avoided her so they would not be ridiculed also.

  • Little Beauty listened intensely (sic) to the story that her father was about to unfold. Once they got home, William pulled out the family tree and photo album to talk about the racial and cultural history that provides the foundation of this family legacy.

  • ...show the world how racial blending and mixed parental heritage does not mean that you're not important in life.
If you've seen the family pictures I've posted on this blog, you'll know that I am not African-American, and I'll be the first to admit that I don't know what it is like to be one. However, I have been around young children and most four year olds I've seen see different skin colors in the same way they see different hair colors. While I'd find this basic scenario believable if it happened on the first day at a new middle school, I don't find it believable with preschoolers.

While I admire Deborah Williams for trying to tell kids that we are all beautiful and that our mixed heritage makes us unique and lovable, this book is not a good carrier of that message, in my opinion. If you've read the book and believe differently, feel free to voice your opinion.

4 comments:

  1. I agree with your assessment that young children are basically color blind. We have friends (who are white) who adopted a boy who is black. He and my youngest are friends. When my daughter was roughly 8 or 9, we were talking about adoption and she said that she didn't know anyone who was adopted. We said"yes,you do. John Paul was adopted" and she was shocked! She had never noticed that he was black!

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  2. nothing fun about writing a review of a book we did not like. But you have to be honest...

    I think my biggest problem is finishing a book that I don't like and I hate to write a review if I did not finish it. sort of a Catch-22 there.

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  3. I agree that children do not look at people the same as adults. so many young children do not even notice the color of skin.

    It has to be tough being a book reviewer at times. I appreciate your honesty! Thank you for the review.

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  4. Just yesterday I wrote a negative review but I seem to be alone in my assessment of the book based on those I read on amazon.com.... so I was sure to mention that in my review

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