Falcon Boy and Bewilder Bird versus Dr Don’t Know in a Battle for all the Life of all the Planets by Barnaby Taylor
Super heroes are pretty awesome right? They perform all these superhuman feats and then they still have this pretty interesting alter-ego, except for Clark Kent, he’s just a nerd, well, at least he’s a nerd in the movies I grew up with; in the newest movie he’s like a muscled lumberjack/fisherman. What if super heroes weren’t so super and were actually a bit inept?
Barnaby’s book is about such a super hero; it’s actually about two super heroes, but one of them doesn’t talk, much like the duo of Penn and Teller. In a world where everyone seems to be waiting in line all of the time, there is a nefarious plot afoot. That nefarious plot involves someone called Dr. Don’t Know.
The whole thing started with an online community of people who wanted to pretend to be magical super hero beings. It was fun for a while, but then it wasn’t so fun because everyone could do the same things. The community then decide not to let anybody have super powers, which was kind of boring. The virtual super heroes soon left their virtual super hero world and went out into the real world. One of those virtual turned real heroes is Falcon Boy. He designed his own costume and it’s not exactly the most sleek or elegant. He partners up with another super hero called Bewilder Bird and they go and live in a shack on the edge of the Panic Town Park.
Panic Town is a nice enough place everybody is very hip onto what’s going on in the celebrity world. Their favorite newscaster is often thought to be filming a documentary or expose when she’s out shopping. Panic Town is also fond of its musicians and musical performances, even if the music seems to leave a lot to be desired. Someone has gotten wind of the fact that Dr. Don’t Know has a terrible plan in the works and he is interviewed on television, but he doesn’t say anything other than, “Don’t know.” What everyone does know is that he has kidnapped Bewilder Bird and Falcon Boy. It’s not the Panic Town needed the two super heroes for saving their lives, it was that they kind of got used to having them around and when they were gone, they were missed.
In the midst of all of this, Ellis, a little girl, suddenly discovers that she cares about the two super heroes missing. She also decides that she should do something about it. Also, it also appears that Falcon Boy can talk to her even when he’s not standing next to her. He tells her that he and Bewilder Bird don’t know where they are and there is no indication to tell where they are. Ellis decides to go to their house and check for clues.
Ellis summons up all her bravery and knowledge of a little girl detective named Pearly Stockwell, who just solves all kinds of mysteries. Ellis asks herself what Pearly would do. At Falcon Boy’s house, Ellis finds a backstage pass to a concert that evening. Ellis decides to go and check this out.
Will she find Bewilder Bird and Falcon Boy Before Dr. Don’t Know has the chance to take over the world? What is his plan exactly? Should Ellis be leaving the house on her own without an adult? You’ll find all of this out if you read the book.
What I liked
Barnaby contacted me and asked me to read this book, and as I like books, I said, yes. Barnaby said this was originally written to entertain a young daughter, but the project soon grew into what it is now. Barnaby’s writing style reminds me of how A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is written, although this book isn’t depressing. I did like the quirky style in which that series was written.
This book is definitely written for the young mind. Barnaby regularly breaks the narrative wall. I’m sure there’s a better name for it; theater people would call it “the fourth wall,” I believe. Barnaby doesn’t come right out and name the narrator as Lemony does in his series, but it’s implied that the narrator is Barnaby. Our narrator observes the events in the story, has a world-wide view of what’s going on, but also talks to the reader, which is something kids like. They do like the idea that a story is including them within its pages. I like the idea of reaching out to the reader, you guys know I do that all the time, but I try to curb that tendency when actually doing some literary writing.
The idea of super heroes being normal people is an interesting idea. Bruce Wayne is a normal guy, no special powers, but he is a billionaire and that’s kind of a special power. I think this book says a lot about how children think. Children tend to idolize people. They think Mom or Dad, or Mrs. Johnson, can do anything. The adults of their lives seem so big and powerful. So, yes, of course they can do anything. Just a couple of days ago I was having a conversation with my grandmother. She was talking about how my grandfather, who is eighty-two years old, poured an entire concrete floor by himself with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. My grandfather can pretty much do anything; I still believe that, but my grandmother was recalling a time when my brother and I were younger. We were discussing building something and we said that Papa could do it because Papa could do anything. I know my grandfather is not a super hero, but when I was child I did believe he could do anything; I still kind of do.
Ellis believed in the adults in her life, even if the adults in her life weren’t really that outstanding in the eyes of other adults. She had some faith in them and they were able to have some more faith in themselves.
What I didn’t like
I don’t have any major problems with this book. For the most part, it’s a polished book for youngsters. It’s about super heroes. It’s about solving a crime. It’s about being independent within reason for your age. It’s about realizing that you can do a lot to help, even if you don’t think you can. It’s about how terrible standing in line is.
Two things that are small annoyances were the giant lists and repetitious sections in the text and the parental advice that shadowed all of Ellis’s movements. As far as the first point, it’s a book for kids. Kids have a tendency to like lists of things and repetition, as an adult I’m not so keen on it, but this isn’t an adult book; I don’t have to be keen on it. What did strike me is that a child who was in the autistic spectrum might really enjoy a book like this. I have an autistic brother and he likes collections of things and repetition. As he has grown older, he’s grown out of that to an extent, but when he was a young child, lists and repetition were his thing. I think the super hero aspect of it might also be really interesting.
The second thing I wasn’t really all that enthused about was how the narrator was constantly saying something like, “Children shouldn’t leave the house unsupervised. Children shouldn’t go to the park alone.” I get why Barnaby put this in the book. This book was originally stories for Barnaby’s daughter and no parent wants their kid walking around the neighborhood by themselves. Kids just can’t do that these days. Trying to look as this from a child’s perspective though, it could get a bit annoying, but that might just be me. That might just be my personality. I don’t like being reminded of things I already know.
One last thing–Dr. Don’t Know reminded me of a character, Button Bright, from one of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. Button Bright said, “Don’t know,” a lot. I don’t remember if he ever said anything else. Button Bright was a child and the image of Button Bright kept Dr. Don’t Know very childish in my imagining of him. I think my mental mash-up of Button Bright and Dr. Don’t Know made the ending more plausible for me.
This is a cute book. The reader can feel like a part of the story. It parodies our real life fascination with celebrities, bands, and super heroes. Ellis gets to be a hero like Pearly Stockwell. There is also a Narnia/LOTR mash-up as one of the Pearly Stockwell books, which is kind of fun.
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Children’s, Fantasy, Feel-Good, Fiction, Social Commentary, Taylor-Barnaby, Young Adult