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Ceridwen

Ceridwen

You kids get off my lawn. 

god bless the gargoyles - Dav Pilkey I normally like Pilkey, but this book is a bona fide mess. Not only is it theologically dicey - apparently angels hug gargoyles when they are thrown out of the Medieval church, or something? - it's written in some of the most horrible doggerel I've had the occasion to read at bedtime. Observe:

And ne'er was a creature so true and so loyal
as the watchful, courageous, and fearless gargoyle.


Or:

"Demons!" they grumbled -- "grotesque!" and "horrid!"
"Those beasts don't belong on the house of the Lord!"


The rhymes here are enough to set my teeth - seriously, do not rhyme "Lord" with "horrid" unless you are Oliver Twist - but the meter is a disaster too. Meter is one of those things that is felt more than analysed - you know something is wrong, but you can't put your finger on it. I'm grateful for my prosody classes, because I can say, without a doubt, that anapestic tetrameter is absolutely wrong for this "story".

Anapestic tetrameter is probably most closely associated with Dr. Seuss's books at this point - the anapest being waltz-like and loose, the four-footed line being somewhat child-like and instructive - which is why it works for kids' books pretty well - it's kinda loosely instructive, playfully telling you what to do. But the tone here is overtly ponderous and meaningful, and it's like hearing a limerick about child abandonment.

There once was a kid from Baghdad
Whose mom went to get a loaf of bread.
She fell in a crack
And never came back
And everyone assumed she was dead.


See? Not funny, but the meter is telling you it is, so it makes you hurt a little inside. This story told this way makes me hurt a little inside.

Which is not to say the message here isn't goodhearted and kind, which goes pretty far in my book. It's about weird creatures deserving love too; it's just that maybe the gargoyle isn't the best monster for this. The gargoyles I've seen are usually somewhat comic - like the ones used as caps on gutters barfing out rain. Maybe the problem here is tone - too serious, too meaningful. Gargoyles are fun, and these ain't fun, and reconciling the two is tricksy, my precious. The art doesn't help one way or another, being somewhat standard moody kiddie art without a ton of artifice - cartoony, straightforward. The whole thing is kind of a bummer, because Pilkey can write some funny kiddie books - not for me, generally, but for the kiddies who enjoy some fart jokes - so this gargoyle treatment feels like a lost opportunity.