________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 5. . . .October 5, 2012
Rapping and DJing are also part of the hip-hop culture.
These recent additions to the “Meet My Neighbor” series (now numbering 12 titles) demonstrate little or no improvement over previous volumes. Like their predecessors, they are dull and boring, and offer only “bare bones” information. Designed for very young readers, the books primarily attempt to show kids the major aspects of various jobs and also that the workers they encounter on a daily basis (although one would argue that a news camera operator and a hip-hop dancer would not be “common” jobs) lead “regular” lives, but the glimpse of the neighbors’ home lives is limited to only one double-page spread which introduces the neighbor and his or her family. The reader is shown the various tasks that are performed by the neighbor during the course of a working day. There is nothing new about this concept, nor does the author offer a fresh take on it. Throughout the series, there are several examples of the author’s neglecting to explain various terms or photographic details.
The text, printed in a large, simple font is limited to 20-30 sentences, depending on the title. Sentences are stilted and repetitive and read more like the labelling of a photograph than part of a continuous narrative. On the plus side, the experts in the photographic illustrations are representative of both genders, occasionally shown in non-traditional roles, and there are many people of colour. However, the photos, too, are fairly repetitive and rather boring. A table of contents is included, although it is unlikely to be of much use. There is also a pictorial glossary with 4-6 entries per title. Even some of these entries are questionable- shelves, for example, in the title about the librarian.
Meet My Neighbor, the Hip-Hop Dancer, in comparison to the rest of the titles in the series, is a bit of a departure in that Marcelino, the dancer, is a university student and only teaches dance as a pastime, not as his full-time job. Marcelino and his dance crew demonstrate various moves as well as participate in a dance battle whose winner is decided by a panel of judges. Most of the photos in this book were taken in what looks like a room in a community center; even the dance battle takes place there, making for a bland and monotonous background. In the crowd shots at the dance battle, it is difficult to tell which of the onlookers are the judges. The only colourful part of the book is the last double-page spread which features graffiti art on a building, graffiti art being an important part of hip-hop culture.
Michelle Lal is a librarian of East Indian descent. She is a jack-of-all-trades at the public library where she works. In Meet My Neighbor, the Librarian, readers will see Michelle reading to young children, helping adults find information on the internet, checking books out for patrons, listening to kids read, shelving books and providing general assistance to library users. Perhaps the author could have chosen a more visually appealing library to use as the background of the photographs. Most photos show either rows of shelving or a computer in the background, definitely not an enticement for children to visit the library. The last two pages show Michelle and her husband on their wedding day. Michelle is photographed in traditional Indian bridal wear- a beautiful sari, multiple bracelets and stunning jewellery, and her hands are painted with intricate mehndi designs- but the author does not bother to explain any of these details. He merely writes, “Her family is Indian, and she is wearing a wedding dress from India.” Instead, he includes two very similar photos of the bridal couple, taking up space that could have been put to better use.
Meet My Neighbor, the News Camera Operator features Kevin Faibish who works at a television station. As part of his job, he meets with the show’s producer to find out where he will be filming each day. After loading his equipment into the news van, he heads off to a soccer field where he sets up his camera and lights for an interview with two players. Back at the TV station, Kevin puts the interview sound bites together with highlights from the soccer game which will be shown on the evening news. Once again, in this title the author could have provided a little more information, not only about the kind of equipment that Kevin uses during interviews, but also about some of the studio equipment that he uses in order to create the video clip for the news program.
Jenn Gellel is a police officer. Meet my Neighbor, the Police Officer offers readers a glimpse into Jenn’s work day, starting with Jenn’s gathering tools, such as a radio, a radar gun and handcuffs (there is no mention of her carrying a gun or any other of the usual law enforcement equipment even though they can be seen in the photos), then meeting with her inspector and superintendent to review the day’s agenda. Jennifer uses a radio and a computer in the police car. Readers will follow Jenn as she uses the radar gun to catch speeders, directs traffic at a busy intersection when the traffic lights malfunction, rushes to an emergency call (although readers never actually learn what the emergency is), and arrests a lawbreaker and escorts him to jail.
Flat and boring, full of gaps and expensive to buy, considering the amount of information and the repetitive photos, these titles require a strong editorial hand in order to be worthy of purchase.
My Neighbor, the Hip-Hop Dancer
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
To comment on this title or this review, send mail to email@example.com.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.