Bucking the “Rainbow Magic” book fad

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Bucking the “Rainbow Magic” Book fad
By Jen Rouse
The Short Years

Oregon Blog

My daughter has recently discovered a series of books that she loves. They’re short, easy chapter books, with simple words and small illustrations scattered throughout the chapters. They might even be simple enough for her to read on her own, but she loves to have me read them to her. They hold her interest and make her eager to get another from the library as soon as we’ve finished each one. They’re everything I’m looking for in a book for an new reader, right? There’s just one little problem.

I really hate these books. I’m serious. They’re so inane, they make me want to gag every time I look at their sparkly pastel covers.

Mean mom says thumbs down to Polly and her party fun.

They’re the “Rainbow Magic” books, and when I look at the sheer number of available titles (134! with more due to arrive on store shelves this summer, according to Wikipedia), I can do nothing but shudder and cringe at the horror.

What’s so wrong with the Rainbow Magic books, you ask? Oh, where to start…

First of all, they’re all about fairies. Which is fine. I love me some fantasy literature. It is, in fact, one of my favorite genres. But the drivel between the covers of the Rainbow Magic books bears no resemblance at all to good fantasy novels.

No, the fairies in these books all have some certain specialization. The Rainbow Magic books are released periodically, categorized into little sub-series, such as the Party Fairies, the Weather Fairies, the Jewel Fairies, even (Lord help us) the Music Type Fairies. Not to be confused with the Music Fairies. That’s a completely different Rainbow Magic series, of course.

So far, we’ve only read the Party Fairies books. Here’s what happens in each and every one:

Two friends, Rachel and Kirsty, are on their way to some special event, when something goes awry. Instantly, they recognize that goblins are at work. The goblins are out to–gasp–spoil the party! But never fear, one of Fairyland’s finest has been sent to stop him. Except that the fairy inevitably loses her special party bag full of fairy dust, and then the girls have to keep the goblin from getting the party bag. If the goblin were to get away with the magic bag, then (oh, the horror!) the goblins might throw a better party than the fairies!

Surely, such a crisis must be averted. But don’t worry: Rachel, Kirsty, and their fairy friends such as Grace the Glitter Fairy and Pheobe the Fashion Fairy will not let such a thing happen. Within 9 chapters, the party bag will be in the hands of its rightful owner, and Kirsty will be saying something clever and insightful, like: “We helped our fairy friends again, and we had fun, too. Fairy adventures are always the best!”

Okay, so you get the gist of how cheesy these books are. They’re formulaic, shallow, and blatantly marketed to appeal to everything that is girly: they’re all about sparkles, rainbows, and glitter. Of course 5-to-9-year-old girls go crazy for them. But other than the fact that they are words printed on paper, and practice at decoding words is useful for beginning readers, whether it’s a grocery list, a stop sign, or a book…there is just no redeeming value in Rainbow Magic.

The plots are unoriginal, the dialogue is dry as toast, and the “adventures” are anything but adventurous. The appeal of a good story, of any kind, is seeing the hero face adversity and overcome. These heroines never face any real peril. As a matter of fact, I think that the books even send a subtly sexist message; that if you’re a girl, these are the things you ought to be concerned with: fashion, ribbons, parties, and fun. Heaven forbid that a girl fight a dragon, save a kingdom, or do anything truly valuable and useful with herself.

I’m not saying I never read any formulaic books as a child. I am certain my parents read me some books that bored them to tears. Baby-sitter’s Club, anyone? I read those books month after month after month. But the BSC books, despite their repetitive opening chapters and the endless spin-offs, actually had character growth and development, both within the books and throughout the series as a whole. The girls in those books dealt with the loss of loved ones, with parents’ divorce, and with chronic illnesses, in addition to the real-life problems and pressures of middle school. They weren’t great literature, not by a long shot, but there was at least some kind of content there.

Nor am I saying I read only high-quality literature now. I enjoy a quick, light romance as much as anyone. But the Rainbow Magic books really have to rank pretty high up there on the list of most meaningless books ever written. And they’re not even written by a real person! Daisy Meadows? Get real. That’s not even pretending to sound like a real name. Daisy Meadows is actually four other childrens’ authors who are probably making millions off these shamelessly cheesy and commercial books. (Side note: why am I not doing this? I can come up with a pseudonym and slop out a unicorn book every month! If you notice me driving a Lexus and wearing Prada anytime soon, you’ll know where my money is coming from. Sparkle Unicorn Divas: the series.)

So far, I’ve been keeping my opinions about these books to myself with Beth. In addition to the Rainbow Magic books, we read all kinds of kids’ lit that is truly fantastic–old classics like Ramona and Little House on the Prairie, plus newer books like Junie B. Jones, which may be light-hearted and simple, but are also laugh-out-loud funny. It’s not like I’m letting her have a reading diet of pure, 100% bubble gum. I don’t want to discourage her from reading, or tell her that the Rainbow Magic books are bad. Because they’re not. They’re just cheap, manufactured entertainment.

But when she turned to the back page of our most recent Rainbow Magic read and gasped with delight at the realization of just how many more magical adventures we have yet to explore, something inside me may have snapped. I am considering a boycott of Fairyland.

Too harsh? Should I be patient and let her enjoy the Rainbow fun, even if they’re not the books that I would choose? Or should I just say no to crappy books?