Thursday, June 20, 2013

2014 Contenders: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The Official Guidebook, by Brandon T. Snider

The front cover of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: The Official Guidebook includes a notice that the book is "20% cooler than all other books!" Having read the book, all I can say is that the Truth in Advertising folks can sleep peacefully tonight. No deceptive claims here!

All right, all right, so maybe it's a bit of an exaggeration. And, in this particular universe, MLP:FiM isn't going to win the Newbery, the Sibert, the Caldecott, the National Book Award, or pretty much anything else except the Books That Sam, A Card-Carrying Brony, Thinks Are Awesome Award. However, it's worth mentioning anyway for a couple reasons, one of which is to provide an opportunity to use this quote from show creator Lauren Faust's foreword to the book:

"If we give little girls a respectful interpretation of the things they like -- if we dare to take it as seriously as they do -- we will see for ourselves that it's not so silly at all. We can truly appreciate the merit they see in it. And, amazingly, we can enjoy it ourselves."

Include all children (not just little girls), and that's a perfect summation of the qualities that the best children's art and literature possesses. I think that, in our search for Newbery-worthy books, one of the key qualities we're looking for is that kind of respect, that sensitivity to the fact that children's hopes, dreams, and fears are as big and important to them as any adult's are to him or her. It is, I believe, a common thread that ties together so much of the art that, while originally intended for children, is loved and beloved by adults: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; The Hobbit; Anne of Green Gables; Harry Potter; and yes, even My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

The second reason is that I've often wondered about how to evaluate these kinds of guidebooks. They're high-interest, high-circulation books in most libraries, and yet it's always been fiendishly hard for me to know how to tell a good title from a mediocre one -- a task made more difficult by the fact that there aren't, for instance, competing Disney Princess guidebooks produced by different publishers. I'd love to see some suggestions for making informed purchase decisions in this genre.

Using the evaluative skills that I do have, MLP:FiM is a pretty good title as these guidebooks go. It has numerous interviews, forewords, and sidebars from people associated with the production of the show, concept art, a summary of each of the show's episodes through season 3, and much more. Although there were a few minor details that, as an obsessive fan, I didn't think were presented entirely accurately, the book was still very well-executed. Brandon T. Snider has written a bunch of these books (The Dark Knight Manual, DC Comics Ultimate Character Guide, The Superman Guide to Life), and he clearly has a good handle on how to make the overall package attractive and easy to read.

So don't expect any awards for MLP:FiM, but if you do buy it, I imagine that children and older fans alike will put it to good use. Buy two copies, and who knows -- the fun may even be doubled.

Published in June by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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