Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Rosie Writes Backwards, by Eva O'Regan (illustrated by Diane Lucas)

I've been meaning to publish a review of this book for some time but I've been procrastinating just a little. Unlike the overwhelming majority of books I review, this was written by someone I know in real life. Sort of. I met author Eva O'Regan at a my local library where she was doing a book launch event for this book (which is when I agreed to review it on my blog) and it turns out she works in my dentist's office.

I'm not one to sugar coat reviews, and I would never give a dishonest review of a book just because I'd met the author (or for any reason really), but, well...if I didn't absolutely love the book then a lukewarm review could be...awkward. I'd probably have preferred to just not review this book at all, but I already said I would, so here goes. (I assure you it's my honest opinion, but I definitely wanted to give everyone a heads up about any connection I have to the author, in case that changes how you assess my review.)

My daughter and I read this book together and it's, um, okay. The idea is an interesting one: A little girl writes backwards and astounds her friends at school. The entire book is written in mirror letters (THE ENTIRE BOOK) so it comes with a sort of shiny reflective mirror paper thing in the back that you're supposed to use to read the words. The idea is that you put the shiny mirror paper against each page and read the reverse image.

First of all, the shiny mirror thing doesn't work that well. It's awkward to read the book under the best of circumstances. I can only imagine how hard it would be once the reflective paper gets scratched, creased, smudged, or worse--lost. And because the book is paperback it's difficult to keep the reflective page at the exact right angle to read the words. Nice idea, but not the most practical execution.

Also, when I say the entire book is written in mirror letters, I mean the ENTIRE BOOK, not just the parts where Rosie is writing. Personally I think it would have been more successful if the main story were written normally, but maybe the character of Rosie could write things in reverse that readers would have to "decode." That's just my opinion.

As for the story itself, I do like the fact that Rosie's backwards writing is treated as a special talent instead of cause for concern. On the other hand, it probably would have been good if there had been a little bit of conflict for the main character to overcome. Did the kids at school think she was weird? Did her parents worry that she had a learning disability? Was her teacher annoyed that she wasn't writing properly? Although Rosie briefly worries about these things, the reaction from everyone is universally supportive. While that's lovely, it doesn't necessarily make for the most interesting storytelling.

Here's what my daughter had to say:

Magda's Take:
Will I have to know how to write backwards when I start school? I know how to write most of my letters, but I don't know how to write them backwards! Is my teacher going to ask me that? Also, why does the teacher in the book look exactly like the mom in the book? Do you think the illustrator was just drawing herself? The grownups all look the same. That's strange..

Mom's Note:
Magda is right about the adults in the book looking a lot alike. I hadn't noticed that!
As for her fears that she'll "have to" write backwards when she starts school, I've assured her she won't! But it seems like a bit of a missed opportunity to me that the author didn't include a parent resource page at the end about reverse writing, dyslexia, etc. Even a brief note on her website would have been great. Again, just my opinion.

Book Details:
Rosie Writes Backwards
Author: Eva O'Regan
Illustrator: Diane Lucas
Publication Date: September 2013
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Source: review copy from author
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