Review of the Day: The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World (Part Two)
(CONTINUED FROM PART ONE)
One of the other problems I had with this book was the character of Mrs. Zender herself. The intention here is to display someone eccentric and extraordinary. A person who has her faults but is, in the end, lovable because she is true to herself. And while that may have been the intention, I couldn’t help but really dislike Mrs. Zender. She was rude, classist, sexist, vain, callous, and even when she is being helpful she does it in such a roundabout way that you’re left feeling she’s more of a hindrance than a help to the boys. In a final surprise (which I shall not reveal here) Mrs. Zender ends up helping Amedeo in his quest to discover something by being completely and entirely passive. In principle this is a good idea, since you never want your heroes to be helped too much by the adults around them. Then again, Mrs. Zender’s passivity is so heavy and harmful that the fact that she isn’t completely apologetic by the book’s end about her actions doesn’t do much to instill a love for her in the heart of the reader.
It comes down to this; in the world Konigsburg has created here, the adults are far more interesting than the children. Reading through this book I got the distinct feeling that this would have made a far better stage play than title for the 10-14 set. The awkward sentences and too long pauses would fit better if read aloud by adults in front of an audience. Here they simply stand on the page looking awkward and out of place. The writing is fine but it doesn’t always fit. The result is a frustrating title that doesn’t quite know who it wants to speak to. Whenever a librarian faces a children’s book that seems tailor made for only a particular kind of child we call it a "special book". I cannot say for certain, though, whether any child would enjoy "The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World". It seems not to have been written for them at all.
Notes On the Cover: Oh, it’s fine. A little close to the Framed cover of last year, but nothing bad. The boys look older than 6th grade and I’m not sure who the woman in the middle is supposed to be (I would imagine Mrs. Zender looking a lot less practical and more flowery). But it’s fine, I guess. Not being a huge fan of the book myself I’m not going to worry too much about the presentation.
Filed under: Reviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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