By Jeff Brown
Published by: HarperCollins; Reprint edition (December 23, 2013)
Available in: paperback, hardcover, audiobook CD, audible, Kindle, NOOK
At the time of this review there were six books in the Flat Stanley series, as well as another chapter book series titled Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures, and Flat Stanley easy readers.
Full of life.
Flat Stanley, or depending on your copy, Flat Stanley: His Original Adventure!, is the 1964 classic that has spun sequels, a world-traveling second series, easy readers and class projects for decades of elementary kids. So how is he holding up? A little thin, but otherwise just fine.
Stanley’s crushing first incident is told in a quaint style that allows his otherwise unbelievable story to be both enchanting and utterly possible. His parents, both caring and unruffled, are a fun addition, and his brother Arthur is cute in his jealousy and carelessness.
Many libraries still carry the copies illustrated by Tomi Ungerer, and that nostalgic, blockish style seems to support the timelessness of the story. The updated version with Macky Pamintuan’s work is certainly more cartoonish and what kids are used to. As to which is better, it’s a toss up and subjective opinion. I prefer the Ungerer work because it seems a better fit with the slightly antiquated vocabulary, manner of speech and old-time style that is non-specific (such as “the Famous Museum of Art downtown”).
Perhaps the only jarring moment is when Stanley’s parents pack him in a cigarette case and mail him away. Definitely not something relevant to the 21st Century.
In previous posts, I’ve described what some consider the defining characteristics of chapter books. Usually, one has to decide if a book is either a chapter book or middle grade novel. Flat Stanley goes the opposite direction: one has to decide if it fits better as a picture book or chapter book. It reads like a chapter book, but doesn’t have actual chapters, although there are natural breaks in action. The pictures are on every page, but it’s much longer than a traditional picture book. Because of this, Flat Stanley might be a good read aloud to tag-team with your child to ease her into independent reading: you read a page, have your child read a page.
No matter what it’s called or classified, Flat Stanley deserves a thin amount of shelf space in the reading library of any child of chapter book age and ability.
What do you say parents, teachers and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….