Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Girl With the Lost Smile - Miranda Hart

Summary: Chloe Long has lost her smile. She's looked everywhere for it. (Under her pillow. Under her bed. Under her nose. Obviously.)

She's tried everything to bring it back. (Her favourite cake. Her favourite gran. Her favourite joke. Obviously.) But nothing seems to be working!

Until one night, something utterly magical happens - and Chloe finds herself on an adventure that is out of this world ... (Summary and picture from goodreads.com)


My Review: I first discovered Miranda Hart on a trip to London several years ago.  Me, my mom and my sister went to our bed and breakfast for a mid-day break and turned on the TV.  We were greeted by a funny show about an awkward woman.  From that day on, Miranda Hart has been one of my favorite comedians (for any who watch Call the Midwife, she plays Chummy).  Just last year while visiting London again, we had the chance to actually see Miranda in a play.  In the playbill, there was an ad for this book.

I wanted to love this book.  I have read Miranda Hart's two other books, both biographies of sorts (one about her life growing up, the other about her and her dog).  She's a good writer, she wrote that TV show where I first discovered her.  But as this is her first children's book, it felt a little lacking. 
 
Don't get me wrong, I did like it, I just didn't love it.  A good children's book, for me, will transcend just being a goofy little tale only kid will like, and have some more meat to it, something that works well on all levels.  I'll alternate between what worked and what didn't:

I did like how our protagonist, Chloe, was able to escape into a magical world to help her through her current problems.  I think this is why we have stories, not only to help us learn, but to help us feel safe.  Chloe's 'Magic Land' was just this sort of thing, and gave her reprieve from her life that was gradually spiraling out of control, and gave her purpose, mainly in finding her lost smile.

I didn't like how pretty much all the characters (aside from Chloe, who was the most rounded) felt like caricatures to me.  I feel that Miranda was going for a sort of Roald Dahl feel, but didn't quite nail it.  Chloe's parents, in particular, were way too over the top for me.  I couldn't really connect to anyone, even people Chloe loved.

I liked how Chloe had to work toward her goal of finding her lost smile, and the things she had to learn about the people around her on the way.  Having it in a modern setting, intermingled with her adventures saving her Magic Land, gave us someone to root for.

However, I also don't like books that kind of smash my face in their moral.  This book wasn't quite that bad, but I did feel like 'here is what you must learn next, dear child' instead of letting me discover that.  That's the magic of books and stories for me, when you can sift out your own meaning, and often times that is different depending on the reader, or the time in their life.

I loved the little illustrations scattered throughout the book, drawn by Kate Hindley, they gave a vibrant life to the story, gave it a fun, cutesy feel that worked well for this sort of tale.  Seeing a happy little bird lead us from one page to the next, or a squirrel or hedgehog greet us at the end of a chapter, intermingled with full page illustrations of a scene in the story lent itself well.  Along with this, certain important words in the text would be a different font to sort of emphasize how important they were to Chloe.  I thought it was a fun design choice.

On the flipside, some of the writing felt a little juvenile to me, just the way Miranda worded and explained things (sometimes over explaining or telling us things that weren't all that pertinent to the tale).  They were just things that, as a writer myself, I steer away from, and so they stuck out.

Overall, this book fell in the middle for me. Not the greatest, but still a fun story with some clever twists that I enjoyed reading. 

My Rating: 2.5 stars

For the sensitive reader: Nothing offensive

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