Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Millie Fierce by Jane Manning

I believe this is a first for 50 Books—we’ve reviewed Young Adult literature, children’s literature, and some books that don’t fit comfortably in either of these nooks, but I think Millie Fierce may be the first, for lack of a better category, “picture book” to get ink in these hallowed posts. It probably would have remained this way, except I recently became a father and, over the past few months, I’ve spent more time reading books with pictures on every page than I have reading 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.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more about those "late period Berenstein Bear books" - ugh!

This book is certainly well done. I'm glad it's your first picture book for the blog!

Thank for being on the tour.

Jordan said...

I love this review!! It makes me want to go pick up a copy of "Millie Fierce". So glad you enjoyed it, it sounds fun, and I think you should review more children's books!

milliefierce said...

Thanks for making "Millie Fierce" your first picture book review.
And yes, it was alot of work -
but worth it.

-Jane Manning

Brent Waggoner said...

Thanks, Jane!