Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie

Title:               The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie
Category:       Nonfiction
Grade:            10-18
Author:          Tanya Lee Stone
Publisher:       Viking
Place:              New York
Date:               2010
Pages:             109

A trend seems to have grown in recent years to write children’s and teen nonfiction on high-interest topics for pleasure reading.  Stone continues this in The Good, the Bad, and the Barbie. This book follows not only the history of the Mattel toy company and the rise of the Barbie doll to her modern throne, but examines other areas of interest including various types of art inspired by Barbie, the impact Barbie has had on girls’ self-perception and the surrounding controversy, and even the tendency for childhood acts of aggression and violence perpetuated on Barbie. 

Although written in a narrative style, the book is highly visual with photographs and photo collages, captions, quotes of note and other sidebars of stories or information.  Though most of the book is in black and white, the center contains several full-color pages, including some rather disturbing photos of jewelry made from Barbie’s dismembered body parts. Large print and washed out photo backdrops break up the monotony of text on white pages along with the visuals, and make this an inviting look into the life of this modern icon of beauty.

For the most part, this was an inviting book, well written and easy to read.  While it definitely has a niche audience, teens who loved Barbie as a child (or still do) will find it welcoming and extremely informative, not just about Barbie, but about her mother company, Mattel, and her creator, Ruth Handler.  A great resource for a unique research report should the occasion arise, the narrative writing style makes “pleasure” reading for this work an actual pleasure.  While the content is accessible for tweens, the subject matter could easily be useful or interesting to an older teen or even an adult, making this a versatile addition to a library collection in spite of it’s narrow overall niche.  It’s one weakness seems to be some organizational flaws; some information seems repetitive and re-introduced  in multiple parts of the book.  Not a major issue, this slight quirk should not prevent anyone from enjoying the overall presentation.


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