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Well, the final episode of Finding Bigfoot is over and done with. Spoiler alert: they didn’t find him. While I don’t want much to do with Bigfoot, I made an exception for D. L. Miller’s debut seek and find books, BigFoot Goes on Vacation and BigFoot Visits the Big Cities of the World. After all, who doesn’t love a good hidden object book for kids? This one has fact pages, too! As a mom, skeptic, and a lover of all things weird, this sounded like everything I had been waiting for.
These books are purported to be a “fun and engaging” way to explore the world and learn facts about the environment, while humorously hunting for Bigfoot. It was pretty obvious from page one that the author is a Bigfoot believer, and he practically spells it out in his thank you sentiments and “About the Artist” section.
It gets disconcerting, as it’s unclear whether it’s satire or if the author really believes he is the most at-one-with-nature person in existence. In fact, he boasts in his listed skills that he’s been able to track the elusive beast “who remains unseen by most”. It’s at this point I realized I was in deep and I hadn’t even gotten to the meat of the book.
The fact pages are somewhat interesting and visually appealing, but the facts themselves are not always accurate, or may only be half-truths. My major grievance from BigFoot Goes on Vacation is on the Yellowstone facts page. Under the headline, “Nature’s Art Studio,” Miller writes that all geysers have their own variance of colors due to the minerals in them. This is printed next to a photo of the Grand Prismatic Spring (which is not a geyser). Miller goes on to say that the green coloration is from yellow sulfur mixing with blue water; the reddish areas are due to large amounts of iron.
No. I’m sorry, but that isn’t how it works at all. The coloration comes from microbes and blue wavelength scattering. I know it’s a big concept for kids, but it really has to be said. My 9-year-old son, Orion, was irritated the most by a factoid in BigFoot Visits the Big Cities of the World. The Tokyo facts state that Paku was the original name for the yellow circle that “gobbles up pieces of cake and little dots”. So close. It was Pakkuman, then Puck-Man, then PAC-MAN. The book incorrectly translates the word “paku” in Japanese to mean “chomp,” but it’s more like Japanese onomatopoeia for the motion of opening and closing the mouth (paku paku taberu is the etymological root).
Also, cake? When? These missteps could have been avoided by doing a quick fact check before publishing. There is a lot of other good information in these books, but giving blatantly false information to kids really sucks ass and I can’t get over it.
As for the art, it’s hit and miss. All seek and find books are reminiscent of Where’s Wally by Martin Handford (known as Where’s Waldo in the U.S. and Canada). In contrast, these books aren’t as visually enchanting or whimsical, and the coloring is very dull and awkward. Each book has two or three spreads that are, in their own way, quite adorable and done just right, which makes it more frustrating than fun. It’s like you know the author is capable but he just gave up midway through.
Despite all the white space, Bigfoot is easily spotted. The “Legendary Footprint” you are tasked to find is in places where a footprint couldn’t exist, e.g. on a beach umbrella. Everything looks like it was a copy and paste job with coloring done half-assed, then incorrectly resized as an afterthought to fit different scenes. Some people are larger than several floors of buildings, Bigfoot is taller than trees in the forest, pigs are as big as doorways, canoes are as large as campsites, etc. The scenes are so vast that a person to-scale would be too small to see, so Miller drew them big, making everything look disproportionate.
It is a kids book, though, so it’s important to see what kids think. I did what any parent would do and handed it over to my little minions. Corvin (1-year-old) really enjoyed the seek and find pages and liked pointing at objects while hearing the color or name. Orion said, “I liked reading some of it, but was disappointed in the artwork.” He says characters have no faces or fun characteristics to make them interesting to seek. The addition of red shorts, blue shirt, or balloons, doesn’t give you enough of a variety to stay intrigued. “It gets boring, quickly,” he said.
“I don’t like the way he did the scribble-like colors, how some objects have thin, fuzzy lines, but others are thick and natural.” I interpret that as his way of describing the resizing issues. His biggest complaint? Bigfoot himself is too easy to spot.
Overall, BigFoot Goes on Vacation and BigFoot Visits the Big Cities of the World are mediocre at best. Honestly, I set my expectations low and I was still disappointed. I know that art is always an “in the eye of the beholder” sort of thing, but the facts shouldn’t be. There are two more books set to be released in the fall, but I think we will pass. They can go hang out with Finding Bigfoot, and Bigfoot himself: alone in the forest, unseen, and far away from me.
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