Friday, March 1, 2013

The Diamond Castle - a "let's read and discuss" Story

Here is a story, called The Diamond Castle:

"Alexa and Liana are best friends.  They love to sing.  One day, they find magic stones.  They make necklaces.  They promise to be best friends always.  Later that day, Liana and Alexa meet a poor old woman.  The girls give her their lunch.  The woman gives them an old mirror.  At home, the girls sing.  A third voice joins in. It is coming from the mirror! A girl named Melody is trapped inside.

Melody tells the story of the Diamond Castle Three muses lived there. But evil Lydia wanted to be the only muse. The two good muses hid the Diamond Castle.  They gave Melody the key. Then Lydia turned the good muses to stone.

 Now Lydia wants the key to the Diamond Castle. Lydia's dragon, Slyder, must find Melody. Slyder flies to the girls' cottage. They hide in the cellar. Slyder is right upstairs! They girls all escape.

Melody still had the key. She can save the muses. Alexa and Liana set out for the castle with the mirror. On the way, they find two puppies.  They name them Lily and Sparkles.  Soon the girls meet twin brothers.  Their names are Jeremy and Ian.  They want to help Liana and Alexa.

Lydia and Slyder look for Alexa and Liana.  Slyder chases them! The twins rescue the girls just in time! Alexa and Liana rest at a manor. They find food to eat and they try on gowns. But the girls argue. Alexa wants to stay. Liana thinks they should keep going.

Lydia lures both girls to her cavern. She puts Alexa under a spell.  Alexa is going ot fall! Liana and Lily save her. The girls are friends again. Now Lydia has the mirror. Melody is still inside! Lydia creates a whirlpool. She uses a spell to make the girls walk into it. But they trick her! Alexa grabs Lydia's magic flute. Liana saves the mirror from Lydia.

Alexa and Liana sing. Then the Diamond Castle appears! Singing was the key! Melody appears, too. She is free from the mirror! The Diamond Castle sparkles with magic. Lydia and Slyder turn to stone. The good muses are free.

Liana and Alexa become Princesses of Music. Their gowns sparkle. Liana, Alexa, and Melody are best friends always."

What if I told you that Lydia (first grade) had written the above story?  You would be very impresses with the precociousness  and inventiveness of a small child.  Or what if this was a story from my childhood, maybe written when I was in third grade or so? You would still laugh over it, and think it was cute.

However, what if I told you that this was a published book, whose full title is Barbie & The Diamond Castle and is actually a badly done summary of a (I presume) badly done movie aimed at girls?

Now, I usually try and refrain from writing rants.  And obviously, I didn't have to read the book - it came into this house because Elisheva gets to pick two books a week from the library, and this is one she picked.  I'm usually a live and let live kind of person for femininity and girls things.  By which I mean, that although I really dislike licensed products aimed to sell more products, I have nothing against princesses and pink and even boys sometimes rescuing girls.  I like a lot of traditional fairy tales, which usually include at least one of the above mentioned tropes.  Yet reading a book where the plot jumps around, includes random encounters (Old woman never explained! Puppies!  Young men who disappear after two pages, providing a convenient save!), proceeds in an illogical manner (how do the girls escape the cellar?  How do they trick Lydia and escape the spell? How come when they sing and Melody joins in, in the beginning the Diamond Castle doesn't appear at that point, and not later?), and digresses into trying on gowns as the big deterrent in the quest, gives me fits.  A piece of writing that would be advanced and impressive for a first grader is pathetic for a published book, regardless whether they are hiding under the title of Barbie, are also a "step into reading" (and therefore simple) book, or even are a summarization of a movie.

And we feed these books to our children!  I know that children have a large ability to intake media and not be overly influenced or damaged by it.  Avram watched a lot of Heman as a child.  I loved reading all hundreds of the baby sitter club books.  We are still functioning humans, and he doesn't think it's normal to run around wearing what amounts to a diaper with straps for a grown man, and I never tried to make my own babysitter's club.  Yet what we intake, becomes our normal.  If nothing else, I hope that Elisheva, or Lydia, who read this book on her own, thinks that this constitutes a good story, a well written story. What really boils my blood isn't even the theme, the pink and all it entails, or any of the other women as objects moments - it's the bad writing.  What kind of writer let these words be published, and put her name on this books! And this one was even personally adapted - I've seen books written by committee that are even more egregious.  What kind of editors would pass this off into publishing?  I know that writing summaries at best are sketchy, and try to avoid any movie to book adaptation, but still, one can have self respect for what one creates.  Of course, if the movie is really bad, there isn't anything a summary could do to save it, so perhaps the adapter had nothing to work with, in which case we can extend this to what media in general are we feeding to out children.

One could say that the onus of this burden of protecting my child from the dreck lies with me, and you would be correct.  I do like to let the girls pick at least one book a week that their little souls desire, without my strong opinions over-riding. Elisheva's soul just happens to crave princesses, ballerinas, Cinderella, fairies and pink/purple.  Usually I try and guide this into the more folklore section, where last week we got two Cinderella books, one a retelling in Mexico, and one a retelling in the Caribbean. (Not that those stories weren't without issue either, but I recognize it's hard to make a version of Cinderella where she isn't a passive player that other characters act upon to tell the story.)  This week my guard was down, and we ended up with Barbie & the lack of any talent, substance or worth book. I will not be so lax again.