Sunday, September 13, 2009

Review: Constance Books

Summary: Say hello to Constance, a sweet, grateful, good little girl—NOT! In fact, she’s a mischief-making, rule-breaking imp with a wicked gleam in her eye. Wherever she goes, trouble (and her enormous cat, Tiny) surely follow. That’s why children will go absolutely mad for her: Constance does exactly what they dream of doing in their naughtiest moments…and she’s never repentant. Making the delicious Constance stories even more fun: the comic contrast between the deadpan text and the outrageous illustrations. Like the cheeky character herself, the pictures always say the opposite of the words. -- Sterling

Summary: In Constance and Tiny the irrepressible scamp ran away only to get dragged back home. Now her scheming parents are sending her off to a terrible, horrible place: a boarding school for wayward children! There, the rules are strict, the bathwater’s cold, and the food’s horrid. Worst of all, her beloved cat Tiny can’t come along. It’s just like prison! But canny Constance has a plan: Since only bad boys and girls can stay there, maybe if she pretends to be really good they’ll set her free… -- Sterling

CONSTANCE AND TINY and CONSTANCE AND THE GREAT ESCAPE by Pierre Le Gall and illustrated by Eric Heliot are two new children's picture books that are rather shocking and also just a little bit funny. Constance is a little girl who is a holy terror (and that's putting it mildly.) She is the narrator of these books, but she is highly unreliable -- she portrays everyone and everything as out to get her. The really fun thing about these books is that Constance is saying one thing and the pictures are showing another.

The age range for these books is supposed to be 7 years old and up; however, my five year old son really enjoyed them. I don't think he understood all of the humor and irony in the books, but he got enough of it to laugh a lot. He kept pointing out to me that Constance was bad and she wasn't telling the truth. I think that was his way of conveying that Constance was really a trouble-maker, and the pictures in the story didn't match what Constance was saying. I only think his appreciation of Constance and her antics will increase as he gets older.

I thought the illustrations in these books were terrific. The pictures are in black, white, tan and red; and they are extremely eye-catching. Of course, I loved that they reflected "reality" when compared with Constance's version of the story. There is a lot to look at on each page, and my son liked to point out in the pictures what was different from the story. I thought Eric Heliot did a fantastic job of showing the evil nature of Constance and her cat Tiny!

As a parent, I was a little concerned that Constance's actions and some of her language were not exactly appropriate. I mean, my son can be a little devil himself sometimes; and I didn't want him getting any new ideas. However, after I read both of the stories to my son, it was clear to him that Constance was very manipulative and just plain awful. I think Constance was so over-the-top with her bad behavior that kids will just laugh at her.

The fun thing about these two Constance books is that they are as entertaining for parents as they are for children. In fact, I think that a lot of the irony and humor will be lost on kids. I found myself chuckling while I read both of these books; and I'm pretty sure that I appreciated the illustrations more than my children. My only warning to parents is that these books do feature a child with a very bad attitude, and one who says mean things about her parents. I found the books to be quite silly, but I do think that some parents might be offended by Constance and her behavior.


bermudaonion said...

I'm shocked that Booking Son can be a little devil! I love the covers of those books!

Beth F said...

I'm sure Booking Son is always good as gold! ;) These sound cute. I'll have to look through one when I'm at the bookstore.

carolsnotebook said...

These sound like a lot of fun.

GMR said...

I haven't actually heard of these myself, but they definitely sound cute! They remind me of a childish Emily Strange...

Brimful Curiosities said...

I read Constance with my daughter and need to review it in my blog yet. Yes, Constance is a terrible little girl, but my daughter also thought that her antics were hilarious. She kept saying, "that's naughty" and "what a bad kitty." As a parent, I'm not sure I understand why kids like the "bad child" books, but they certainly seem to draw kids in.