Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: GIGI IN THE BIG CITY by Charise Mericle Harper

Harper, Charise Mericle. Gigi in the Big City. New York: Robin Corey Books, 2010. ISBN 978-0-375-84235-1. $12.99 US.

This is a darling but superficial interactive book with lots of little details about the “big city,” presumably New York. Gigi leads the reader through the book into different places she explores. The first two pages – an inside-cover spread – find Gigi arriving in a taxi, which is a flap you can pull down to see the inside of the taxi and Gigi and the cabbie within. In this introductory spread alone there are 14 flaps to open to see the tenants in a skyscraper, the poses in a yoga studio, hats and dresses in stores, and students taking art classes, among other things.

Each page follows this conceit, offering flaps to lift to see the inside of stores and museums along with wheels to spin to see different varieties of gemstones, hairstyles, and expressions. You could spend an hour just changing Gigi's outfit in one segment. The many details crammed into just a few pages echoes the experience of a city – so many people, so much artwork, so many activities going on all at once in a relatively small space.

The interactive aspects of the book are delightful and intricate, and I can see young girls enjoying this book for its fun-and-flash factor, but the message of the book is shallow. While there are some educational details in the museum spreads and a few people of different ethnicities, Gigi in the Big City is largely materialistic. Gigi’s explorations take her out on a town seen by privileged kids with money to burn. She goes shopping; she looks at shoes; she reads frilly magazines; she gets her hair done. The book could have gone beyond fluff by including more details about the people, neighborhoods, and jobs that make up a big city.

Jill Coste

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