Lego Friends: Friends Forever. by Helen Murray. June 18, 2012. DK. 48 pages. ISBN: 9780756693831
Polly Pocket meets Barbie in this newest DK Reader published on June 18. In Friends Forever, readers meet Olivia, a Lego person who has just moved to Heartlake City (neighborhood businesses sold separately) and her friends, Emma, Andrea, Stephanie, and Mia (also sold separately.) Like most groups of girls created by series authors and toy companies, this is a diverse bunch. We have blondes and brunettes, varying skin tones and eye colors, and of course, different styles of clothing. Each of the girls is revealed to have a special talent or interest - Olivia is bookish, Andrea’s musical, Emma’s an artist, Mia loves animals, and Stephanie loves to plan parties (and she also takes flying lessons). The illustrations show each of the girls all set up with the Lego set that belongs to her, participating in her special activity.
On the positive side, this book is visually very attractive and appealing. DK Readers always have bright, interesting, and eye-catching photographs and this one is no exception. Whether kids have these particular Lego toys at home or not, they will be drawn to the clever ways in which the actual toys are used to illustrate the story. There is a great picture in the first section of the story, “Olivia”, where Peter, Olivia’s dad is shown pulling a large Lego carrot from the green grass of his Lego garden. I also love the way the kitchen is set up and labeled so that the reader knows the brown slab on top of two smaller Lego pieces is meant to be a brownie, but that a round shape with grooves all around it is a cake. I know if I were a child, I would immediately try to recreate those scenes with my Legos. I also think little girls in the early elementary grades just love books with lots of little girl characters in them. The kid appeal for this book is huge, and I honestly don’t expect to see my library copy again once it goes out on the shelf.
That said, this book is obviously a tie-in that is intended to make kids want to buy Legos. Worse than that, it actually lays out the framework for playing with the Legos, thereby eliminating any need for kids to use their imaginations. I think Legos - even girly Barbie-esque ones like this - are decent toys, and I love the idea of providing kids with a few characters and letting them go to town coming up with their own back stories and connections. That kind of play was the basis of my entire childhood, and I think it’s a great idea to try and preserve that, rather than constantly creating tie-ins that do all the imagining for the kids. I trust DK books to be well-written, and this one isn’t bad, but it rubs me the wrong way when a book is basically a how-to manual for playing with the toys it’s trying to sell.
As a book, on its own merits, Friends Forever will probably bore adults, as it is basically just a list of traits about the girls in a group of best friends, with very little plot or development. Little girls, though, will love the cutesy, upbeat attitude of the text and the clear, bright illustrations, and they will enjoy memorizing each of the details and answering the short series of questions on the last page of the book. Reluctant readers would be a great audience for this book, as would fans of other easy reader tie-ins, such as the Barbie I Can Be... series and the Disney Princess books.
I borrowed Friends Forever from my local public library.