Shakespeare (I recommend A Fish Out of Water). But enough with the preface—on to the review.
Millie Fierce tells a familiar story, one whose themes have been touched on in everything from Office Space to The Counterlife—the longing to be someone else, or at least, a different version of yourself. The titular Millie, quiet, polite, and often overlooked, is pushed past her breaking point one day when “the best flower she had ever drawn” is turned into a “multicolored smudge” by a group of girls who not only neglect to apologize, but don’t seem to notice their destruction at all. At this point, Millie discovers there is another side of her, a fierce side, which she unleashes with all the fury a young child can muster:
“For Millie Fierce, no line was too long to barge in front of, no food was too tasty to flick across the table”All of these stories have one of three endings: the protagonist is fulfilled by the new self, the protagonist finds that the old self was better, or, as in Millie’s case, the protagonist learns to integrate the old and the new. Millie’s eventual decision is fairly obvious from the beginning—it’s doubtful that many children’s books strongly champion the virtues of cutting in line and stealing cake—but author Jane Manning manages to elicit not an insignificant amount of pathos from her simple story, largely through her bright and expressive artwork, which is worth the cost of the book by itself.
Is it pretentious to review a picture book the same way I’d review a novel? Maybe. But the level of craft that goes into something like Millie Fierce is worth being pointed out—it doesn’t take too many late-period Berenstain Bears books to make you appreciate a book that can teach a lesson without moralizing, using illustrations that don’t look like they were dashed off to meet a deadline.
Disclosure: I received this book from TLC Book Tours. They did not attempt to influence the content of this review in any way. I appreciate the opportunity to participate, and encourage our readers to check out the other reviews on this tour.