Bootsie Barker

by Harry on April 10, 2004

Bootsie Barker Bites is close to the perfect childrens’ story book. It has action, conflict, sparse narration, believable characters, and a satisfying resolution. The pictures, admittedly, are outstanding, but not better than the text. I read it with a posh English accent for the mothers, and a drab south London drawl for the kids, but my wife reads it with American accents all round, and it works as well both ways.

Bootsie Barker, Ballerina, by contrast, is close to unreadable. Forgettable story-line, dragging prose, no characterisation. It doesn’t matter how you read it — its better not to.

I’m very hard put to think of another case where outstanding writing is followed up so disappointingly. Candidates?



Pradeep Atluri 04.10.04 at 10:32 pm

Good: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (by Laura Joffe Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond)

Bad: If You Give a Pig a Pancake


Curtiss Leung 04.10.04 at 10:52 pm

Not children’s writing, but…

Great: Ulysses, James Joyce.

Followed by terrible: Finnegans Wake, James Joyce.


Jeremy Osner 04.10.04 at 11:57 pm

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is indeed a fine book. I am glad to say I have remained ignorant until now of its disappointing sequel, and plan to remain so.


Invisible Adjunct 04.11.04 at 12:30 am

Good: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Not as Good: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Bad: If You Take a Mouse to School


Ophelia Benson 04.11.04 at 12:57 am

Hi IA!

This is a fun game. Let’s see if I can play…

Good: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

Not as Good: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Bad: If You Take a Mouse to School

Terrible: If You Give a Stoat a Martini

Sodding Awful: If You Take a Piranha to the Ballet


Anita Hendersen 04.11.04 at 1:28 am

Mega-Great: Phillip Pullman’s “The Golden Compass”
Great: The Subtle Knive
Not horrible, but a substantial drop in quality: The Amber Spyglass


Russell Arben Fox 04.11.04 at 1:40 am

Actually, I have to disagree with Pradeep and IA. I think If You Give a Pig a Pancake is actually just as good, if not better, than If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. I’m not familiar with any others in the series though.


laura 04.11.04 at 6:12 am

I know I’m disagreeing with a near-consensus, but I think “The Amber Spyglass” is substantially better than “The Subtle Knife.” While the narrative of Spyglass does threaten to careen out of control, I (not a cryer) wept for hours at the end.

I’d say that Dorothy Allison’s “Cavedweller” represented a drop-off from “Bastard Out of Carolina,” though it’s not terrible.

In the realm of mass-market fiction, specifically genre romance, Joan Wolf got a lot worse when she switched from regency to contemporary romance.


Tamar 04.11.04 at 10:35 am

Good: the original Jesse Bear (“Jesse Bear, what will you wear, what will you wear in the morning…”)

Terrible: all of the other Jesse Bear books (“Jesse, it’s your cousin, your cousin Sara Bear…”)


Bruce 04.11.04 at 10:55 am

In kids’ books:

Phat: The Cat in the Hat
Flat: The Cat in the Hat Comes Back

For adults:

Wonderful: Dune
Awful: Dune Messiah

Just a note that there are lots of trilogies that follow that pattern, but recover some in the third book. (Stephen Donaldson comes to mind, among others.) But these are two of the more egregious examples I can think of, sitting at work.


Mike 04.11.04 at 12:04 pm

Classic: Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation Trilogy

Utterly Abysmal: Every sequel to that trilogy that he (and others) wrote in an effort to combine his robot and Foundation universes.

Along the same lines, I include Arthur C. Clarke’s sequels to Rendezvous with Rama and 2001.

And, as someone has already mentioned Frank Herbert, I’ll just ressurect the age-old question that my high school English teacher introduced me to, given that everything else Frank Herbert has written is dreck: “Who ghost-wrote Dune?”


Anarch 04.11.04 at 2:07 pm

Am I allowed to nominate the Old Testament?


John Isbell 04.11.04 at 4:31 pm

This thread would be a long one for movies, though the Godfather II and Legally Blonde II, for instance, were both comparable to the original. My sister tells me Scooby Doo II contains a funny line.


Ralph Luker 04.11.04 at 4:54 pm

Anarch: The short answer to your question is “NO!”


Nabakov 04.11.04 at 7:11 pm

I have only one word in response to this thread. And that word is:

The “Uncle” Books by JP Martin;
Tintin and Capt Haddock;
Sqn Ldr James Bigglesworth;
Richard Scary’s Great Big Busy Books; and
John Blackburn mows John Wyndham’s hay.


Matt McIrvin 04.12.04 at 1:07 am

When I was little, I actually preferred The Cat in the Hat Comes Back: there were so many conceptually odd things in it, particularly the recursive stack of Little Cats inside of the Cat’s hat, with its (incomplete) implication of infinite regress and the mysterious VOOM hidden in the realm of the microscopic.

And I remember wondering whether “Dad’s $10 shoes!!!” were really all that valuable.


lms 04.12.04 at 1:40 am

Rather than a sharp distinction between 1st good, rest bad, I opt for Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series slowly, irrevocably spiralling out of control, both the author’s and the editor’s.


Laura, 11d 04.12.04 at 3:19 am

Agree that pig/pancake is not quite as good as mouse /cookie. Another one hit wonder of children’s books.

A fine second book is Click, Clack, Moo, which was a follow up to Giggle, Giggle, Quack.


liz 04.12.04 at 6:52 am

Hmmmmnn. I am far from the illustrated books days, although everything Jan Brett produced had redeming social value.
(the intro to her site doesn’t do her justice)

I am particularly fond of Fritz & The Beautiful Horses

which is a real true story, as opposed to the loathsome set of stories about a fish with a beautiful scale, which makes other fish envious, therefore he has to share….help me out here, toddler parents…


mjc 04.12.04 at 11:35 am

In answer to the question “Who ghost-wrote Dune?”, I would nominate John W Campbell, the notoriously controlling editor of Astounding, wherein the initial version of Dune was published as a serial.


mjc 04.12.04 at 11:44 am

BTW, there are no sequels to Rendezvous with Rama, and Gentry Lee is the product of a deranged imagination.


Matt Weiner 04.12.04 at 3:49 pm

I disagree with both Anita and Laura; I thought Amber Spyglass was horrible. It blighted the first two books for me.
If we want to talk about slow irrevocable spirals out of control, there’s the Berkeley Breathed oeuvre, starting high and then just getting worse and worse (with a possible uptick around the time of Billy and the Boingers Bootleg).


Ted 04.12.04 at 9:27 pm

As long as we’re on children’s books —
Good to excellent: all of Robert Munsch’s output, except
Vile and intolerable: “Love You Forever.”
(Who ghost-wrote that?)


Simon 04.13.04 at 12:25 am

I’m not sure about the sequence, but I thought Louis Sachar’s Holes was superb and anything else from him was dreary. Holes won the Newberry prize in 1999, but coincidentally most of the other winners have been dreary too.


hew diolch 04.13.04 at 9:33 am

Good: Angela’s Ashes

Bad: That piece of shite sequel, whatever the fuck it was called.


Dave F 04.13.04 at 12:20 pm

Since this thread abounds with bedtime-reading critics, a valuable breed, has there been a sequel to The Gruffalo (my grandson’s all-time favourite, and one I enjoyed reading to him … again and again and again)? If so, is it worth bothering with?

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