Saturday, October 27, 2012
Review: Hello, We're the Fuzzwippers, by Marilynn Halas (2012)
This is the first book in a series, and it feels too much like a book that is meant only to whet one's appetite for later books. As a result, there is no storyline, and there are no central characters. All we know is that these Fuzzwippers have come from the Land of the Fuzzwippers to meet this group of kids who seem to live in a world without parents. The Fuzzwippers explain that they simply want to have a special friend, and each kid gets their own Fuzzwipper, though I can imagine kids with the same colored Fuzzwipper arguing with each other: "You took my Fuzzwipper!" In the end the Fuzzwippers want the kids to know one thing, that they are all loved. This is a nice, sweet message, but it seems that Halas included it only to provide the story with a sense of purpose. However, there is no story to lead up to the message, and it ends up feeling random. The book doesn't earn it.
I don't know how the rest of the books in the series will be, but a lack of any central characters will make it difficult to engage kids. Only a few of the children and Fuzzwippers are named, and even then it is only in passing. We don't get to know anybody (though how you can get to know a Fuzzwipper is beyond me). Halas has a very colorful cast of characters from all ethnicities, but she loses an opportunity there when she doesn't let any of the characters come to life. Multiculturalism in stories is a big concern today, and it's nice that Halas has added kids of other races in her story. But simply including them doesn't truly make the book multicultural, though it is better than nothing.
The idea of the Fuzzwippers is something that will likely appeal to children. Many kids would love to have some little creature of their own, that they can actually hold and play with. I could have seen this working in a storyline format, though its message would have been better placed in a different type of environment. What I mean is that these kids seem pretty well off. The only adults in the story are three hula-dancing women welcoming Alexandra and Fuzzany to Hawaii. But these aren't poor orphan children. They seem to live in a paradise world, where they can eat s'mores by the fireplace, eat gigantic feasts and make a huge mess afterwards, and play on their laptops under the shade of a tree. These aren't kids who are in need of help. I don't see why they would need any Fuzzwipper buddies, and I don't think they're worried about not being loved. This type of message would have made much more sense if the kids were impoverished and struggling and needed Fuzzwipper buddies and needed to know they are loved.
In the end, I ask myself if I would buy this for my own kids (which I don't have yet), and the answer is no. The story is not memorable enough and it doesn't offer anything that would make me, even as a kid, read this again and again over Dr. Seuss or Little Critter or the Berenstein Bears. Perhaps the next book in the series will do a better job of showing what Halas can do in terms of storytelling.