edited by Jon Scieszka
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Reading level: MG
Book type: short stories
Ten incredible trips into the unknown await you...
Blast off with:
• ‘Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo’, an all-new and exclusive tale from Rick Riordan, author of House of Hades
• ‘A Day in the Life’ by award-winning author/illustrator Shaun Tan
• ‘Rise of the RoboShoes’ by Tom Angleberger of Origami Yoda fame
And many more weird and wonderful stories by legendary writer Ray Bradbury, Newbery medalist Rebecca Stead, Shannon Hale, D. J. MacHale, Eric Nylund, Kenneth Oppel and Neal Shusterman.
Compiled by US National Ambassador for Children’s Literature (and Secret Ambassador for the Intergalactic Alliance) Jon Scieszka, Other Worlds will boldly take you where no reader has gone before.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
In theory, this series of books sounds great. Collections of short stories that will appeal to tween boys and encourage them to read? What's not to like? Unfortunately, quite a bit. The main problem with collections like this is story choice. While it's important to have a good variety, choosing stories that are too far out of the chosen genre or targeted age group is just asking for trouble.
I got through the first two stories in this book, and then was so worn out and disgusted that I couldn't bring myself to read most of the rest; the only reason I read "Rise of the RoboShoes" and "A Day in the Life" was because they were short. All I could think about after reading that second story was that second story. And it made me angry. Really angry.
"Bouncing the Grinning Goat" is the story of the eldest daughter in a family of sixteen children who is tired of being an unpaid babysitter to a woman who apparently can't keep her legs closed. So she steals her older brother's armor and goes off in search of an adventure. I had no problem with all of that. What I did have a problem with was the ending and the underlying message... especially since this was included in a book aimed at boys. Basically, her older brother tracks her down and lays a guilt trip on her. Her mother misses her. Her mother cried. Oh, that makes everything okay! The girl returns happily to wipe her siblings' butts and noses until, presumably, she can make some poopy-butted, runny-nosed kids of her own. The message I took away was that it's okay for a girl to have an adventure... as long as she goes home to be a domestic drudge for a bunch of men when she's done. No. No! I wouldn't want young girls exposed to that message, and I don't want young boys exposed to it, either. All it does is perpetuate gender stereotypes and shame women for wanting to be independent.
The inexplicable inclusion of such a story in a book aimed at boys soured me on the whole thing and made me question the suitability of the rest of the stories. I just didn't feel like investing any time in the longer stories after that. For what it's worth, here are my mini reviews on what I did read:
"Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo" by Rick Riordan - I'm not familiar with Percy Jackson, never having read any of the books about him (or seen the movie, for that matter). But I still enjoyed this story. The writing and characters were obviously aimed at a younger audience, but the story was entertaining and funny, and I can see why the series of books has such a following.
"Bouncing the Grinning Goat" by Shannon Hale - I've never read any books by Shannon Hale, and if the sexist tone of this story is anything to go by, I probably won't in the future. Here we have a girl who's tired of looking after her nine younger siblings, so she takes off to find adventure and her own special powers... only to be guilted back into a life of domestic drudgery by her older brother. Nice.
"Rise of the RoboShoes" by Tom Angleberger - What a waste of time this one was! It could have been a thought-provoking story. Instead, it was played for cheap laughs with underwear jokes and badly Photoshopped pictures.
"A Day in the Life" by Shaun Tan - This fully illustrated story was interesting, though a bit light on plot, and I'm not sure it's really suited to middle graders; they might find it boring. Some of the events of the man's day are pretty amusing... and all of it is definitely imaginative. This short story was enough to pique my curiosity about the author.
So, in the final analysis, the reasons why I didn't finish Other Worlds are as follows:
- I just wasn't feeling it
- the stupid second story made me spitting mad
- poor selection of stories
- the library wanted it back