Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review, Burgher and the Woebegone

Finding the right books for reluctant readers isn't easy. That's why I get excited when I find books that are totally out of the ordinary, ones that lead readers down different pathways. Might this book appeal to your child?

Burgher and the Woebegone is the latest book by Kim Chatel, with illustrations by Samantha Bell, and published by Guardian Angel Publishing, 2010. It's a fantasy, a fairy tale even, cleverly woven into a choose-your-own-adventure format.

There is something endearing about Burgher, despite his distaste for such loveliness as Spring and butterflies:

Burgher was a gnome, which is just another way of saying an ugly elf. ... His beard was as gray as his heart and tangled with bits of twigs and last night’s dinner. ... Burgher liked gray. He worked in his garden bed, plucking the few green shoots that dared to poke through the mud. Only fungus and slugs were allowed in his garden. Slugs were dependable and no one ever made a fuss over fungus.

You see, Burgher has a broken heart, and broken hearts are prone to making us grumble and grouch. Above all, he loathes Jonny Gold and the Queen Apple Tree, and does his best to get rid of them. Will his efforts work? Will his way to happiness be through that door marked 'Misery'?

I loved the contraptions Burgher built to carry out his plans. I laughed aloud at this grumpy gnome's antics. I enjoyed the quirky characters, and pursuing different pathways of Burgher's story. Above all, I appreciated the underlying theme: that though we paint ourselves into a lonely corner, and make really disastrous mistakes, "destinies can be changed, but the heart will always find a way out of loneliness."

I've read and reviewed two of Kim Chatel's children's books before: Rainbow Sheep and A Talent for Quiet, both published by Guardian Angel Publishing. One of the many things that impresses me about this talented author is her versatility. Rainbow Sheep was illustrated by Kim's own fiber art pictures, and A Talent for Quiet featured Kim's photographs, plus tips for kids on photography. With Burgher and the Woebegone, Samantha Bell is the artistic director. Her sketches give an extra touch of whimsy and humour to the book, adding details we can enjoy before moving on to find what that very grumpy gnome does next.

I love the way the choose-your-own-adventure style gives a child some control over a story. It means a youngster can interact with the book, stimulating his imagination and encouraging him to make decisions that affect its outcome. With Burgher and the Woebegone, another bonus is that you can actually get the book in different formats - a print book, and an ebook, where kids click on a hyperlink to design their own story pathway. Kids who enjoy this book might like to try writing a choose-your-own-adventure story of their own, or create their own tale about a grouchy gnome named Burgher. To find out more about the book, watch an animated trailer, and read an excerpt, visit Chatel Village.


  1. Hello, I am a Spanish teacher. I have found your blog of chance, and have found it very interesting. Congratulations for your work. From today you have one more follower. I invite you to know my blog http://libretasdecolores.blogspot.com
    Regards from Spain.

  2. Book Chook20 July, 2010

    Hola, Maria, welcome to The Book Chook! My Spanish is too poor to understand your blog words, but I love how colourful and attractive it is. I hope you will find some resources here that will be useful in your teaching.

  3. Reluctant readers that I have taught really get a kick out of the choose your own adventure format. They enjoy the surprise of it and the way that it can change the story. I often have reluctant writers more excited to write when they can do it in choose your own adventure style. Now they can do that digitally using YouTube!

  4. Ruth ferris21 July, 2010

    How do you update your Wowzio widget to show new posts & picts?

  5. Ruth ferris21 July, 2010

    How do you use you tube to write a choose your own adventure story?

  6. Book Chook21 July, 2010

    Ruth, it's automatic - Wowzio picks up new posts and adds them via the mysteries of technology.

  7. Book Chook21 July, 2010

    I'm not sure what Kelly means. It isn't the case with Burgher and the Woebegone, as the only thing on Youtube is its video preview. But I know some books have a digital component eg 39 Clues.

  8. Book Chook21 July, 2010

    I've noticed that too, Kelly. Anything that will switch reluctant readers on to reading has my vote.


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