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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Keoni's Big Question Fails To Impress

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I don't review a lot of picture books, but when I do, I judge them using two criteria: (1) Will the book interest my kids? and (2) Is it the kind of book I could read to them over and over and over (which is the mark of a good story around here) without going completely nuts? Since re-reads drive me crazy, my favorite picture books are those that make the repetition fun, like Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury; Julian, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes; Click Clack Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin; Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault; and almost anything by Dr. Seuss. My kids aren't quite as picky as I am, but they still want bright, fun illustrations; an interesting storyline; and engaging language. So, I have to ask myself, "Are my kids going to like the book?" and "Is this something I could read over and over again without slitting my wrists?"

While Keoni's Big Question by Patti B. Ogden (illustrated by Mary Manning) is a sweet story, I have to say it failed on both accounts. Usually, when I get a children's book in the mail, my kids fight over who gets to read it first. In this case, my 7-year-old took one look at the book and handed it off to her 4-year-old brother. I later retrieved it from the floor of the car, where he had dropped it. Since my kids didn't beg me to read the book to them, I stuck it on my review pile, and didn't think much about it until a couple of days ago.

Of course, I had to give Keoni's Big Question a fair shot. After all, my kids don't always display the best taste (they're too impatient for I'll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch or The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, which makes me laugh 'til I cry, just like it did when I first read it in 4th Grade). So, I read it. The story features a young boy named Keoni who's plagued by a question. A BIG question. A question for which no one seems to have a straight answer. Not his mother, not his pastor, not his Sunday school teacher. One day, when Keoni is fishing with a family friend he calls Old Fisherman, he realizes he has never posed his question to this wise old man. So, he asks, "Can anyone see God?" After witnessing several of nature's miracles, Keoni finally gets his answer.

Like I said, it's a sweet story, but not terribly exciting or original. The illustrations are soft and muted, with an almost Asian (maybe Chinese?) feel to them. I liked them, but I don't think they're bold enough to catch a child's eye. Ogden's writing is dense, not terribly lyrical and probably not engaging enough to keep a child's attention. My kids were less than thrilled, and sadly, so was I. I mean, it's not a bad story, it's just not that interesting. Keoni's Big Question is not one I'm likely to read again ... to the kids or to myself.

Amazon reviewers, once again, disagree with me. You can see their opinions (and 4 1/2 star rating) here.

Grade: C


  1. Thanks for reviewing "Keoni's Big Question".


  2. Patti B. Ogden29 April, 2009 17:08

    Thank you, Susan for taking your time to review my book. Although you did not care for it, I realize from your list of children book favs - Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type (these are fun!)- this type of book was just not your cup tea -and that's ok. It's not for everyone.

    I do hope readers will stop by the website and see what we are about. We'd love to have to visit!


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