CM Archive

Jean-Pierre Cano
Illustrated by Marie-Claude CaillÉ; translated by Jeanne Marks; narrated by Gordon Pinsent, Montréal; La LÉgende du Cerf-Volant Magique, 1982,1984. 51pp, paper, $11.99,
ISBN 2-9803154-1-9. Includes audiocassette 45 min. (The Tale of the Magic Kite, 1). Distributed by Stewart House.

Reviewed by Joan Weller

Volume 22 Number 2
1994 March/April

This "package" of illustrated book and cassette provides the reviewer with much fodder. As a story with musical accompaniment it must be examined on many levels.

The overall effect of the creation is dismal. If it is a "new age" attempt to provide young readers and listeners with a spiritual approach to the universe, it fails. Its creators have not put themselves in children's shoes, or, if they have, they are forcefeeding them a very confusing story-line with music offering an awkward canon. Suggesting, as the publishers do, that it is for "ages 5 and up" as well as being "useful for classes in English, as well as English as a second language" and "a valuable aid in learning French as a second language" is to muddy its purpose even more.

First the story. To simplify it is difficult but simplify it one must in order to make any sense of its confusing text. To say it has a plot is to overestimate its structural style and to underplay its unconnected story-line, without setting and characters worth telling about. The story takes the semblance of a quest to vanquish "the Dirties," who endanger the "World of Sound." If this does not seem appealing, add the fact that "Friends of the Magic Kite have sent a distress call to Earth to stop the Dirties ... from transforming the Galaxy of Imagination into a cloud of dust" And if this does not lose would-be readers along the way, add music and children's voices that fail to mirror the text in song or narration. The only positive note to the music is its originality and, in the case of one or two songs, some lyrical appeal. But the music's intrusiveness when used as background to the narration only adds more confusion.

The production does not lack talent (Michael Burgess' singing, Gordon Pinsent's narration) but not enough to lift it up to standards of children's literature or good musical drama. It is said to be "the first adventure of the crew and the Magic Kite The children were captured in a blinding Wink Eclipse, but thanks to the Pattycake Walk, they have clapped their way through the confusion." Not this reader and not young children, who deserve better.

Grades 3 to 6 / Ages 8 to 10

Joan Weller is an Ottawa librarian whose children's book review column "Kids Books" appears weekly in the Ottawa Citizen.

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