booksofafeather: A book and candlestick, with a feather lying across the pages. (Default)
[personal profile] booksofafeather
Short review: A very pretty picture book, with full double page paintings. The book talks much about the dream of flying, and begins in a beautiful way, but, it falls into one of the "traps" in the ending that many books like this fall into I think... in "More thoughts", I'll discuss it. It's very inspiring, but, the writing is a little poor and it might give the wrong message to young children. It's worth it if you're collecting pretty picture books about flying though.

Writing: The writing jumps about, between really beautiful, and very broken and confusing... for example, one line is, "So they went to the kitchen where they found the ingredients for a mysterious potion". But, we never hear about how they get the idea for this potion, before or after. Did they find the recipe in the kitchen, too? Did they make it up? Do their parents make mysterious potions? You don't find out. The book jumps like this a lot.

Since this is a picture book, I'm also going to talk about the paintings here. They are a little mixed... some of the people are a little rough but the background style is very pretty. It feels like it was inspired by classic Japanese paintings.

From a winged person's perspective...: Flying with leaf wings is a really interesting idea! There's lots of magic and the characters definitely want to fly for the sake of flying. They love magic and they miss it in a deep way when it is gone. This would be a great book for winged people except for the message at the end, which I think most people will disagree with.

Trigger warnings: None. This is a very gentle book, with no violence.

More thoughts...: I can't decide what score to give this book... it is not so bad that I feel I can give it less than three. The writing is shaky but the book is so pretty, and, it clearly is magically inspired. The inside of the cover has this lovely little text....

Kiria longs to lift into the wind
like the eucalyptus leaves
on the tree behind her house.
Then a cocoon,
a gift of magic,
sends sparks up her arm...

This is a story of wishes and
dreams and real night magic. For
once you have flown, nothing can
ever be the same.

It's beautiful... and, the story follows this for the most part. I think the ending was trying to be inspiring. But, to me it fails. Other people might like it. But, to me, it's copying a mistake many other stories make.

I'm going to talk a little about this mistake. Eucalyptus Wings ends with the girls waking up and realising their magic is gone. Unlike in many books, they show the amount of sadness about this that I think is right. Too many books have the characters not care at all! Or, they say "oh well" and go on with the day. Would you really do that? It doesn't seem realistic.

But, then the father gives the girls a swing with long ropes so that they can "fly". And, then, they're happy. And that's the end.

This is just me but... swinging on a swing is not a substitute for flying for me. And, if it was as easy as that to fill that need, no one would hang glide. "Once you have flown, nothing can ever be the same"... because flying is unique. It would be less likely to say "once you swing on a swing, nothing can ever be the same". Now, the book was inspired by this author's childhood memory of swings so I can't say no one has that experience, but, I don't think it's a common thing. To swing on a swing, it's fun but... it's not flying.

I think that a lot of stories do this. They try to be inspiring, by giving the characters a magical thing, then, taking it away and showing how they can have that magical thing "in the normal world". But, magical things are not something you can replace. We want magic because we want magic... not because we want swings, or love, or power, or some mundane thing, but magic. And we want flying because we want flying.

This isn't hard to see, even if you don't use magic... imagine a story about a child who finds a puppy. The family can't keep the puppy, but, they buy the child a plushie and say, "isn't that a lot like having a puppy?" I think that a story like that would be written for children, to try and help them to not be disappointed. But, it doesn't work. Do you really think that a plushie is the same as a real puppy? Do you really think that a swing is the same as flying?

It's uncomfortable truth, but, there are some things that we need that are magical. People don't like to accept that because it's very hard to get those things, and it hurts that we can't have them... but, we're insulting the magic if we say that it can be replaced this easily. It can't.

I give this book three out of five. I would be careful giving it to children, but, it could be worse, the paintings are very lovely and the feel of magic at the start is very nice. But, it's for an adult collection more than for children.

Date: 2011-04-27 03:41 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] aethyriek
It's funny how often this happens when it is a fantasy book and could probably have equally strong messages with a different ending. The author's choice to include that poem at the beginning and then end how she did strikes me as very odd. It sounds like she was trying to say find happiness in your limitations, but the nostalgic sense from including that poem really throws that off.
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