May 23, 2010

Cecil Learns to Smile by Charlotte Bucher

I really hate giving bad reviews to children's books. I love picture books and young readers books. I love what they can teach. But this book, unfortunately, does not hit the mark for me.

Here are some passages I couldn't get past (putting grammatical errors aside, as I tend to be more leniant in that area for self-publishers since pro editors are not on hand and we all know how well MS Word's Grammar Check *cough* doesn't *cough* work.) So here is the first passage-

One day a huge man/creature came thru (yes, the author spelled the word like a text message! Ack! My teacher brain just about fried right there!) the forest and spotted the little frog. "Hello little frog" said he, as he removed his dark lens glasses and a strange black box from in front of his face. "Why do you look so sad?" said the man. "All my family has gone on to other trees to live and I am here by myself. Some have even gone to other forests" said little Cecil. "I am too small to make the giant leap to another tree."...The visitor said "Let me take your picture with my camera. I can show it all over the world for I am a TV cameraman. Perhaps some of your brothers, sisters, and cousins will see your picture and come to visit you." The little frog croaked "Okay dokey" meaning yes.
Okay...there is so much wrong with that one page that I am actually BLOWN AWAY. First, obviously spelling through in shorthand. This is a Beginner Readers book. This is teaching the child to spell the word wrong and that it is okay to be sloppy when you're writing. It's not a txt msg! Spell it out! Secondly, she writes that the frog doesn't know what a camera or sunglasses are, but somehow the frogs in the rainforest will be able to see Cecil on TV.

Let that soak in a for a minute.

MAKES NO SENSE, right? Even most 4-year-olds will be able to tell that makes no sense. Plus, a man walking through a rainforest just stops to converse with a tiny tree frog. Then the whole, "Okay dokey" meaning yes. Okay, so I just don't like that, but I guess there is nothing too wrong with it. I can let that go, right? Moving on, let's see what else there is-

Soon all the frogs knew that Cecil had become important and loved. Cecil's Uncle Bert, speaking from his lily pad, said "We should plan to go and visit Cecil in case he moves to Frogiwood. Maybe we need to apologize for teasing him." Cecil's cousins Maisie, Mokie, and Nickie were very excited. Maisie said "I have dreamed of Cecil ever since tadpole days. I miss him." She also dreamed that he was going to get a special pair of Crocs so that he could jump over to play with everyone.

I had to read that page about 10 times before I actually believed that it said the frog was going to wear some Crocs. CROCS! Not only is that a terribly odd thing to say, but how exactly does that help a tree frog (who has sticky feet) jump from tree to tree? Are Crocs the new Air Jordans? I'm confused. And Uncle Bert and the three cousins are never named before this page which is halfway through the book. Why now? And, if they do have a "Frogiwood" in this story, the cameraman needs to be a frog, too, I think, otherwise it, again, makes no sense. Why would a human be shooting film for Frogiwood exactly?

I can give Bucher credit for trying to teach a lesson about not teasing others who are different. I can give her credit for introducing an exotic animal to children. I like that. But the execution is just not there, the illustrations are hit and miss (though better than I can do), and, call me crazy, but I just can't get past the fact that you should't put frogs in a rainforest environment and then say they watch TV run by humans. Like I said, it doesn't make any sense. The story needs to either be fantasy fiction OR realistic fiction in my opinion. Mixing it just doesn't work in a young children's book.

BOOK #: 32
FOR CHALLENGES: Young Readers, Indi Authors, New Authors, Countdown Challenge, 100+ in 2010
GENRE: Children's Beginner Reader/Picture Book, Fiction
PUBLISHER: Self-Published with Outskirts Press
FORMAT/PAGES: Paperback/21
HEY, FCC!: I received this book from the author for review purposes.


  1. The word choice in these passages is somewhat awkward and I agree that it would be difficult for younger readers to follow (not counting the plot issues). Also, I'm not sure about the message of "if you get media attention, you become important and loved" ... is that really what it was?

    I'm sorry that you had a bad experience with this one. We would love all children's books to be examples of perfection but they just aren't, are they?

  2. I have to agree with you, it seems like a very poorly-written children's book. I would have exactly the same questions and reactions you did. Plus, I even though the "okay dokey" was misspelled, in my mind it's always been "okey dokey" but even as that, sounds out of place.

  3. Those elements might have worked okay for a storybook, but definitely not a picture book. In a storybook, you would have given the frogs other human characteristics too.

  4. Kristen- I didn't even think of that, Kristen. You are right that it is not a great message to send kids. I think I am harder on children's books because I take it from a teacher's perspective. I admit it.

    Jeane- I have no idea how that is spelled, but I can see where you find it out of place.

    Kathy- I think that is one of the things I had trouble with. Reality and storybook were mixed in a way I didn't find worked.

  5. Ewww! I do like the cover though!!!

  6. Oh dear ... this sounds awful. And NO EXCUSE for thru!! ARGH.

  7. I am a glutton for picture books, and I love the cute cover on this one. It's a shame it wasn't better written and edited.

  8. Staci- I agree about the cover. Most of the illustrations were very cute.

    Jenners- I agree.

    Stephanie- I love picture books, too, and I really want to like all that come across my desk, so to speak, but this one just needed to stay in the drawing room a little longer. There was nothing wrong with the idea.

  9. EEEK! I'm not sure I could even give it a full star after that shameless reference to Crocs!

  10. ZOMG, this book sounds hi-larious. The part where the author explains what okey-dokey means made me laugh.


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