Fuse #8

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Super Crunchy Fun

I write an unholy (some might also say "unhealthy") amount of children's book reviews for Amazon.com for fun. I do not tone these reviews down any or am any nicer on that site than I am here. I am instead rather cruel, vicious, and I write with a great deal of growls and howls. As such, I have always expected great piles of hate e-mails to fill my in-box daily. I mean, I put my info out there. Any nutjob could write me a tearful jolt of loathing for taking to task their beloved Daniel Boone. But the truth of the matter is that I have only ever received two e-mails from upset readers. One was from an author who, for the sake of his good National-Award-winning-self shall remain nameless. He was mad that I didn't like his very poorly written early novel. Fortunately we corresponded in such a charming manner that he sent me an ARC of his newest book as an apology... and it is terrible. That was case #1. Case #2 was more along the lines of what I've expected for years and until recently never received. This woman was driven to great fury that I didn't find her beloved Prayer For a Child to be... oh, how shall I put this ... good. It's not. It's dribble. In her anger she asked me, sarcastically, what I thought I should be reading to children. "Captain Underpants?", she scoffed.

Well, I'm a defender of the Captain. I've always felt he's on my side when it comes to getting reluctant boy readers to pick up a book. But you know who disagrees with me? Michael Chabon of all people. Now this little piece of his came out last year but I'm posting it now because I only just found it. Therefore it is news.


At 7:54 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm doing a lot of research on DB for an educational work-for-hire gig right now; since I'm using mostly adult bios for research (and I didn't want anything written before, say, 1990), I hadn't come across the one you reviewed.


Thanks for the review.

At 10:16 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

It's the book I gave my lowest rating to. When grad students come in and need a children's book that offers racist or sexist stereotypes (one guess on which kind of book is easier to find) I turn to good old Danny. Note how many people have given my review a negative vote, however. He still has his followers to this day.

At 7:54 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best book of adult poetry I can't get anyone to read is Maurice Manning's A Companion for Owls , a sequence of poems about and mostly from the point of view of DB (who I and, I fear, many people, kinda confused with Davy Crockett.) A bad book can be written about anyone -- A Companion for Owls is good enough to compensate for anything.

At 5:40 PM , Blogger Becky said...

Around here, we read a fair amount about Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett : ) . In fact, that's where my two boys get their noms de blog, and they'd as soon confuse DB and DC as have anyone confuse the two of them. A lot of the confusion nowadays seems to stem from the fact that Fess Parker played both frontiersmen, forever melding the two in the hearts and minds of both Boomers and their kids. The vintner and Uncle Walt a lot to answer for...

And that's part of the problem with Daniel Boone in general and the Daugherty book in particular -- you have to tweeze/tease apart the legend and the truth, and in the case of the book, you have to untangle where DB ends and Daugherty starts. Much of the problem lies with Boone himself, since he was larger than life during his life, when the myths and legends started up; they were so powerful they caught the imagination of writers such as Goethe, Byron, and Fenimore Cooper. "The Adventures of Captain Daniel Boone," his exploits in his own words, was published when he was 50, more than 30 years before he died and while he was still young and healthy enough to be adding to his own legend. Primary sources are always best for studying history, but fellows like DB make even those a tough slog.

One of the best books I've read about DB is the biography by John Mack Faragher (about 10 years old), also the Belue update of Draper, and the lesson here is for adults (especially parents, and especially especially home educating parents) to educate themselves on subjects they'll be discussing with kids. Preferably beforehand lol. I'll keep using books like Daugherty's with my kids because they provide a marvelous window on the times, illustrating the good, the bad *and* the ugly -- even if the author himself doesn't recognzie it as such; as well as solid lessons for kids on the differences between older and modern sensibilities; between folklore and history; and the fact that people (especially famous ones) and issues are generally more complex than they first appear. You're never too old to start learning any of that...

Just my two cents. That and a coonskin cap and a token will get you on the subway : )

At 1:10 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

By the way, how did this comment section get completely hijacked by my obvious loathing for DB? The posting itself was supposed to engender some kind of dialogue about Chabon. Now, admittedly I haven't read much Chabon, so I guess I'm on steadier ground when I crush Daugherty's good name underneath my stiletto heel. Still, I'm fascinated by how a tiny comment will throw an entire conversation onto a new unforseen track. Fascinating.

At 6:26 PM , Blogger Becky said...

Because I can't resist a good rabbit trail under the heels of my sturdy, trusty farm boots.

Chabon...Chabon.... Oh yeah. He lost me when he wrote, "In detesting, in disapproving of the Captain Underpants books, I am not trying to...withhold my approval for [my son]."


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