My rating: ★★★☆☆
My dad likes slot cars, and when I was younger we used to periodically set a track up in the family room. Every few years or so we’d go into D.C. (or was it Baltimore?) and stop at a store that specialized in slot cars, “toy” trains, and corresponding accessories. He’d always go pick out new cars and track loops and whatnot. I’d always beeline for the miniature train stuff, and stare in wonder at the tiny people, animals, signs, buildings, etcetera. I loved–love–to look at the little towns the more dedicated “builders” put together, and I always wished I could have my own.
Because, really, I’ve always liked to create and to control. I always loved those train towns, and as a little girl I loved dolls (later, “paper dolls” and now world-building). But when I went to the library down by the beach–not my usual library–and discovered that they made “Barbie” books, I discovered something else that I quite enjoyed.
I was probably ten years old before I discovered the Barbie dolls had books–back in 2003, my family had only had its first computer for about two years, and I wasn’t allowed to go on the Internet with it except for specific sites (Neopets, mostly). So my only way to discover books was by actually going to the library, which meant older and more obscure children’s books totally slipped by radar. Then I found a shelf of Barbie books at a library about a half-an-hour away from my normal one, and was ever so surprised. ‘Course, I was pretty much past my doll phase by then; I had started to make the transition from play-acting my stories with plastic and paper dolls to actually writing them on paper and my first personal computer (which had literally nothing on it besides Microsoft Office 2000). But I discovered that these Barbie picture books, while incredibly juvenile and rather mediocre even amongst tie-in children’s books, they did have one thing that fascinated me.
Every other page in the book was a photo of a Barbie doll acting out whatever was going on in the plot. It’s the silliest thing, but it enchanted me. Hell, it still makes me smile. Really, it’s nothing more than a larger-scale train town. I wished so much that I could set up a miniature town or scene like that myself, especially now that I knew a way to interweave that concept with writing. So I read those ridiculous little Barbie books well into middle school, enamored merely with the pictures. ‘Course, now that Barbie “Princess” stuff is so popular, I don’t think they bother to make “normal” Barbie stories anymore, but… fond memories, at least.
So when I found the sequel to this book at the local thrift store, I couldn’t say no. It was only $0.20, so how could I lose? Maybe I’d get some fun pictures to look at. But I wanted to start at the beginning in the unlikely case that there was an internal timeline I needed to be aware of, so I tracked this one done through the state-wide Marina system.
Disappointingly, the only image I got to grin in amusement at was the cover. I expected at least a page or two of pictures in the middle, but… no dice. And yes, I do feel ridiculously silly complaining that a book didn’t have enough pictures, but… c’mon, it’s Barbie. Isn’t “silly” the whole point?
So as far as I’m concerned, this book didn’t really have much to do with Barbie. The character’s name is “Barbie Roberts”, but… without the cover picture, you’d never know it was that Barbie Roberts. Her siblings aren’t there, and none of the peripheral characters I’m familiar with–Ken, Teresa, Midge, Tommy, etcetera–are, either.
On the other hand, it certainly wasn’t bad. There’s nothing even ridiculously silly that I can make fun of. It was just a completely average mystery for children; great for those who love all things Barbie, but just average for the less enthusiastic.
The absolute best thing I can say about this? If your sons and/or daughters are genuine Barbie fans and aren’t yet “into” reading, this series and the other older Barbie series (you know, the non-obsessed-with-princesses ones) might be able to change that.