Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: The Robot and The Bluebird, Dinner in the Lion's Den

While I read only a few books for adults, I have read dozens and dozens of children's books (some individual books have been read dozens and dozens of times). There's a lot of good stuff, some mediocre, and occasional bad books. Some of the great stuff is really popular, like Dr. Seuss's works, and doesn't need me to promote them. Other great books don't fall into the "children's classics" category, mostly because they are too new or perhaps because they are undiscovered jems. I want to recommend a few books we've read recently that I think should be classics in children's literature.

First up is The Robot and the Bluebird by David Lucas. We got this book through the library because we asked the librarian for any robot-themed children's books they might have. Jacob loves robots and can watch endless streams of video on the Internet. Reading stories is also fun. This story is not exactly fun, but is very warm and touching. A robot is ejected from a factory because his heart is broken. He spends a long time on a rubbish heap. In the winter, a bluebird struggles through a storm and seeks shelter. The robot takes out his defective heart and makes a nest for the bird inside his chest. The robot begins an odyssey to bring the bird back to a warmer climate. You may be thinking, "Wow, that sounds really hokey!" While it does sound shmaltzy, the story is very touching. It reminds me of the "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" montage from Spider-Man 2.  Peter Parker loses his superpowers and embarks on an odyssey of rediscovering his non-superhero life while the classic B. J. Thomas song plays. Written down, the scene also sounds really hokey, but the acting and the editing and the music are blended just right. It's a great moment in film. Here it is:

Of course, The Robot and the Bluebird is great but not so funny. It will be touching for the parent and it has lots of rereadability in it.

Next is Dinner in the Lions' Den. This is the biblical tale of Daniel in the Lions' Den as a children's book. In the book, Daniel prays to God faithfully. Three of the king's advisers, jealous of Daniel, tell the king to make a law that anyone who prays to a different god than him should be thrown in the lions' den. Then they tell on Daniel, who prays to the true God in spite of the law. The king is upset since he likes Daniel but goes through with the punishment. God sends an angel who is "good with lions" to help Daniel through the night. Every time the lions get hungry, the angel tells them it's not dinner time. Thus Daniel lives to escape. The ending of the book is a bit controversial, since Daniel's enemies get thrown in the den and the angel says, "It's dinner time." You don't see anything graphic, though the implication is pretty clear. Of course, it is ambiguous enough that you could talk to your child about what happens to the bad advisers. You could soften it up, saying they were let out after being scared. Or you could read the end of the account from The Book, i.e. Daniel Chapter 6, verse 24:
At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
At least the kids' book doesn't throw in (haha!) the wives and children or the bone crushing. I guess you need the right sense of humor to read this book to your child. If you are reading a blog by someone who claims to have been turned into a zombie by his children, you may have a fitting sense of humor.

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