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A Good Children's book, with a few caveats
on November 3, 2016
If I could, I would have given this book 2 1/2 stars instead of 3. This book has some definite strong points and weak points that I want to discuss in this review:
This book was written in 1974, about 42 years ago. The beginning and ending of this book are its weak points. It is because they seem dated now. I don't believe the author would have written this book in the same fashion today. But I have to take in account these weaknesses in this review, because some books that are much older and have stood the test of time better than this one.
--In the introduction to the 25 year edition of this book, the author encourages kids to look up the word Whangdoodle in the dictionary. And other reviewers criticized this because they did not find Whangdoogle in their dictionaries. I found that in 2016, the word Whangdoodle is in unabridged dictionaries such as those found in libraries or on dictionary.com. So the author was not being deceptive. But it is a little let down, when a child tries to look this up in a typical dictionary found at home or school and cannot find the word.
--As other reviewers have stated, at the beginning of the story, the children meet a stranger at the zoo. Then later, they re-meet this stranger while Trick or Treating on Halloween. They do tell their parents about the stranger and the parents then allow their kids to spend lots of time with this well respected, award winning Professor at the nearby University, including some overnights. The father of the children also works at the University, but does not know this Professor personally, just by reputation. I am sad to say in today's world, after the Penn State incident a few years ago, I don't think the parents would be so willing to allow their kids to spend days and overnights with this professor. I am sad that this is no longer our world, but it is. I think this book is still worth reading, but I would encourage parents to discuss this point with their kids as I did with my daughter.
--The ending of the book talks about DNA and cloning. The reality of DNA and cloning animals today is not the same as what is presented in this 42 year old book. So this does make the book seem dated. I could see some other ways that this book could have concluded that didn't include the DNA and cloning topics. But in 1974, I think the author wanted to use the science at the time in this book.
--First and foremost, my 9 year old daughter, who is a reluctant reader, LOVED this book. She loved the story line of children having qualities that adults no longer have and therefore were the best people to lead this adventure. It makes children feel special and that is what makes this a good book.
--The imagery and descriptions of everything in Whangdoodleland are simply wonderful. You really feel like you are there when you read about this special, magical place. The closest comparison I can make is to the world created in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but I think this book does a better job in describing a wonderful place. It really emphasizes the natural world and all of the wonderful qualities of the plants and animals in Whangdoodleland. I think this book can also inspire kids to learn about the animals and natural features in our forests and natural places.
--Other reviewers have compared this book to The Neverending Story. I can see that comparison, but I would compare this book more to A Wrinkle in Time for younger kids. We tried to listen to A Wrinkle in Time with our kids (ages 8 and 10 at the time) on a trip with an audiobook and they just didn't get it yet. I think that book is more for ages 12 and up. However, my now 9 year old, really understood and enjoyed this book. According to the book cover, this book is for ages 8-12 and I would agree with that recommendation. As with A Wrinkle in Time, there is an adventure that the kids are most suited in leading and there are some dangerous points along the way, but the kids use their special skills to solve problems and make the trip a success.
--As with A Wrinkle in Time, the readers are respected and large concepts are presented. This isn't a boring story line, it is a true adventure.
Aside from the weak points, which I think are manageable, I hope you will read this review and consider encouraging children ages 8-12 to read The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. It is a special book.