last night’s bedtime book: Paddington at the Palace, by Michael Bond. Let’s get the good out of the way first: the Paddington books are excellent children’s books. R.W. Alley’s illustrations in this series are excellent. Paddington the Bear is a cute character without being cloying or manufactured, and there’s at least one funny thing for adults in each of them I’ve read. For example, Paddington being mistaken for a busby is a good gag whether you’re 2 or 32, especially compared to what passes for humour in the average children’s book.
Now for the bad points of the book. The action in the volume turns when a mysterious figure within the palace notices Paddington’s failure to see the changing of the guard because he was stuck behind everyone in the crowd. An assistant is dispatched to open the grounds to Paddington in what is obviously a case of special treatment. Really, the only reason Paddington is allowed the access he gets is because someone notices he’s a cute little bear; there’s no value in that as a lesson.
But here’s the bigger issue: as might be anticipated this book is about a visit to Buckingham Palace, and I am sorry to report that neither main character is properly dismissive of the legitimacy of the monarchy. As I’m sure you’ll agree, the royals are wastes of perfectly good internal organs who ought to return all their earthly possessions to the people and get real jobs. It’s not as bad as ooh-ing and aah-ing at the Vatican would be, given the horrible and asinine predilections of the Catholic church, but come on–Prince Harry wore a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party. These people are assholes, soup to nuts. As a possible mitigating factor, it might be too early for the target audience of this book to grasp the derision with which the figureheads of British state should be regarded.
Frankly, given this book’s shortcomings, it is my least favourite Paddington story in the seven books Alex has. As a reflection of the strengths of the series, though, it still rates three and a half Pochaccos (on the JesusH rating scale of zero to five Pochaccos).