Monday, February 11, 2008

Diesel 10 Means Trouble by Britt Allcroft (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)

There is a lot of awful stuff being published in the name of children's entertainment. As the father of a two-year-old, I've read a lot of it (over and over again, usually). But Diesel 10 Means Trouble has to be one of the worst.

Despite having seen several episodes of Thomas and Friends into the dozens of times (I could perform an impromptu one-man show of a couple from the Milkshake Muddle DVD), I've got a soft spot for the little blue engine and his Protestant work ethic (misguided though it may be).

Which leads me to the main reason that Diesel 10 Means Trouble rubbed me the wrong way: it's simply not written like the other books. First off, it's one of the few actually credited to an author: the show's one-time producer, Britt Allcroft.

Whether she's a good producer I can't say, but she's a horrible writer. Where the other books are painstakingly crafted to a certain reading level, Allcroft mixes large and small words with seemingly no thought of the book's audience, or to any sort of narrative flow.

The story of Diesel 10 Means Trouble is utterly ridiculous. Fans of the show will wonder where such characters as Mr. Conductor and Lady the Golden Engine came from, and what the devil "magic gold dust" has to do with it all.

(Some parents have expressed disappointment at Diesel 10's negative qualities, but I think that's silly. First of all, he's the best part of the book — I love a good villain, and I really enjoy reading his part aloud. And second, how are kids supposed to learn to tell "right" from "wrong" if they're not exposed to "wrong" once in a while.)

But possibly all the explanation that is needed is that this book was adapted from the movie Thomas and the Magic Railroad, the attempt at a feature film that was produced, written, and directed by Allcroft. Purists can't stand it, and its failure at the box office directly led to Allcroft's resignation from HIT Entertainment.

I mean, come on, anything that stinks that bad shouldn't be allowed indoors, right? My recommendation is to avoid it, even if it is given to you as a gift. Then again, your mileage may vary, and, of course, if your kid loves it (like mine does), you're simply out of luck. Whatever the case, Diesel 10 definitely means trouble.

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