Reviews: Emma and the Blue Genie by Cornelia Funke
Emma and the Blue Genie by Cornelia Funke (Random House Books, Expected Publication, August 2014)
“Maybe the moon likes to eavesdrop on the thoughts of girls who sit alone by the sea with noodle-tailed dogs.”
Cornelia Funke delivers another fantasy story with a delightful young heroine and her dog taking a trip into the fairy tale realm of 1001 Arabian Nights!
Eight-year-old Emma and her small, but brave dog Tristan live by the beach in a home with four brothers. Emma finds her younger brothers rather annoying much of the time and often escapes the house at night to go and sit on the sand and listen to the waves. On this particular night Emma discovers something remarkable in the waves: a glowing bottle. Naturally, she opens the bottle, and naturally, there’s a genie inside. Only he’s really a very small blue genie unable to grant her wishes. Karim was once a mighty creature to contend with, but since the theft of his nose ring by Sahim, the yellow genie, he has lost most of his magic. Emma decides to accompany the genie on his trip back to his home in Barakash, since she’s been dreaming of her own adventures and this seems like her best chance for them. Can this unflappable eight-year-old find a way to help Karim regain his powers and defeat the evil yellow genie? You bet!
If you”re at all familiar with the work of Cornelia Funke, you know that strong female protagonists are often included. From Princess Pigsty to The Princess Knight to Igraine the Brave, this author provides some great role models for girls. Emma is no different. Despite being only eight (and in her bathrobe) she manages to help win the day against the evil Sahim. It’s over-the-top Arabian fantasy land, complete with genie, caliphs, flying carpets and sabre rattling guards. But what keeps this story from flopping into a cliche pankcake is a combination of light-hearted humor, snappy writing and a delightful protagonist (and pet).
Add to all that the full color illustrations that sweep across the pages and you’ve got the kind of fantasy adventure sure to interest a younger chapter book reader, or a reluctant reader. The images remind the reader of the sense of adventure, and that our heroine is a young girl in pajamas and a bathrobe. This could be a charming read aloud, or a great book for fairy tale readers wanting something new.
My main concern–and I haven’t come up with a satisfying response to my concern–is that the Arabian stereotypes might be drawn a little too broadly. How do you discern the difference between outrageous Arabian fairy tale (much like it’s outrageous European cousin) and offensive portrayals of a culture? It’s true there’s some talk of really tall turbans, blue tattooed grandmothers, beloved dromedaries etc. And I’m just not sure if this crosses the line. To be honest it reminds me most of Diana Wynne Jone’s Castle in the Air. But if anyone can offer me further insight on this topic, I’d be grateful.
That said, it’s still a charming fairy tale adventures that isn’t too scary for younger readers. They’ll have confidence that young Emma will make it back home again, all the richer for her escapades (and maybe with a wish or two regarding her brothers).
Note: An advanced reader copy was provided by the publisher.
Publisher: Random House Books
Expected Publication Date: August 2014
Recommended for ages 6-9yrs.