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Author: Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier
Genre: Children
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

582The world's largest company, the AMALGAMETED BEHEMOUTH has many successful subsidiaries, one of them being Wallyland amusement park. According to the park's cheerful mascot, Wally the Wallaby, the park is "'The most fun place in the universe.'" (Page 13) For Joe, the elderly inventor who creates many of the robots in the park, it isn't the most fun place in the universe anymore. For five years he has worked on "The Garden Of Fairy Tales" project, where his beautiful robots would bring to life children's stories such as Cinderella, Snow White, Pinocchio and others.

But now his boss, Mr. Fox and his assistant, Miss Kat - in the mode of corporate bean counters everywhere - have mandated that Joe stop work on the fairy tale project. They claim no one cares about that sort of thing anymore. Instead, after threatening Joe with termination, they insist that he work on the new "Roboboxers" project. The robots violently fight it out while audience response is measured by computer and whichever robot the audience prefers, the computer makes sure that robot wins the fight. Mr. Fox ignores Joe's concerns over violence and the history of the park as he embraces his violent version of the future.

Disheartened and faced with repeated threats of being fired, Joe has no choice but to comply with the order to dismantle the robots and move onto constructing new robots for the project. But, the idea appalls him and he decides to finish his favorite robot, Robonocchio which is his version of Pinocchio. Working late into the night he finishes and realizes that this might be the best robot he has ever created. Exhausted, he falls into a deep sleep and manages to miss it when, thanks to a little offworld help, Robonocchio comes to life. Much like his namesake, he has a nose for trouble and one that gives him away when he lies.

The basic story is very entertaining and appeals well to its intended audience of young adults. It also appeals to the younger crowd and adults will especially enjoy the subtle social commentary that appears from time to time throughout the book. However, what really makes this book special is the bilingual design of the book. As noted in the introduction on page 7:

"It's a simple idea: begin a text at the same place in two languages on facing pages. You can read the language you are trying to learn, but when you lose your place, you can look to the exact same spot on the page that is written in your native tongue. Without need to resort to a dictionary, the required word or phrase is there and the reader can speedily move on."

By doing so, the book helps the readers, both children and adults, improve their bilingual skills. This is the first book from the Babel Library, part of Black Coat Press, owned and operated by the authors. With French on one page and English on the facing page, it accomplishes both goals of providing an entertaining story as well as helping the reader improve language skills. The accompanying illustrations are a nice touch and serve to make this book even more entertaining for all age level readers.


August 11, 2004 in Children | Permalink


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