We love books in our house. Any and all books. I’ve learned over the course of the last ten years that the idea of being a book snob does nothing more than inhibit the desired activity. I truly do understand all of the arguments for and against various books. However, when my kid expresses any interest in reading, I’m all for it. When Nickelodeon offered up some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle books, I jumped at the chance.
I could wax poetic on the importance of having my child read things like Beatrix Potter or Charlotte’s Web. Goodness knows, they’re wonderful stories that I read as a child. I suppose somewhere in the discussion of children’s reading, we can argue that movie tie-in books do nothing but promote an age-inappropriate movie to younger kids.
If we’re going to be honest, movie tie-ins simply allow kids to transition their knowledge. They open a door to the world of reading. For a kid who may not want to crack the spine of a book, isn’t that really the thing we want the most?
In a world where young boys are more often reluctant readers, books like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle books bring boys back to the reading table. They bring little boys (and girls, but we’ll get to that in a second) the action stories they want. The colors are dark and a little menacing, much like the movie seems to be. For younger kids who are under the PG-13 moving rating age, these books allow them to access that world and engage in the story with older siblings or friends. In fact, it gives parents an alternative to taking their desirous younglings to the movie. In addition, in order to access the movie fandom, the littles are forced to engage in the active reading process as opposed to the passive movie watching process. All in all, this acts as a win for literacy in littles.
To address the gender issue mentioned above, please understand that I’d never say that girls shouldn’t read these books. They should! However, I will also say that with the lack of April O’Neil in the books, there’s a definite lack of gender equality in the representation. Given the fact that Megan Fox as April headlines the movie, it’s an odd choice and a weird erasure of the main female character in terms of marketing.
With that behind us, I suppose we can turn to the target audience of the stories, my seven-year-old son. His reactions were, in typical little kid fashion, based on the shiny and sparkly aspects of the books. The Step 2 “is amazing. It’s a great book about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the stickers are shiny and cool.” When asked about the Fan Book, he replied, “I liked the Fan Book second because it has posters but you have tape them together and I think that would be really hard. For my sticker that I like the most is Rocksteady.” (Then he stuck it to me.) My favorite was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Stand Together book. It had a mini-matching cards game which we played. There were the inevitable stickers. Plus, as a parent, the character descriptions inside had more sophisticated sentence structure and vocabulary. (Side note: Somehow the Turtle Van edged out April O’Neil as a character to be discussed which, see above, I find sort of odd and exclusionary).
Overall, if your kids are looking for the small person equivalent of a “great beach read”? Nickelodeon’s books are a perfect fit.