Phileas's Fortune: A Story about Self-Expression

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
The original French title of this charming book was The Great Word Factory; the English translation is clumsily didactic. The American Psychological Association, which sponsored the translation, seems to have missed the mark with this tale of an imaginary land where words have to be paid for; those who are poor, like Phileas, must make do with the few choice ones they can afford to express their love. In an afterword, parents are told that children should be encouraged to value caring for others and using what modest means they have to express themselves. I have no argument with this point; however, few of the four to eight year olds that the APA seems to be targeting with this book will be able to grasp the sophisticated imagery of this allegorical tale. DoCampo's sepia-toned illustrations broken by red highlights are also likely to seem threatening to preschoolers, as much as they might appeal to older readers. I can see this book being used as the basis for a discussion about the power or appeal of some words over others. But such an activity would be appropriate in middle school or beyond—it is well beyond what very young children are developmentally able to do. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
Gr 4—A young boy lives in a strange land where people must buy and swallow the words they need in order to speak. Those who can't afford expensive words must resort to using dull, boring, discarded terms found in trash cans and gutters, and old-fashioned, useless words that go on sale. Occasionally, if they're lucky, they can catch a few good words floating in the air. Phileas desperately wants to wish his friend Cybele a happy birthday and profess his love, but unlike the bully Oscar, who has enough money to blurt out his feelings, He can't afford the right words. Instead, he smiles at her and, with all the love in his heart, utters "cherry!" "ruby!" "chimes!" Cybele doesn't have any words either, so she simply gives Phileas a kiss, to which he responds with a word he has been saving for just the right occasion: "again!" The exquisite and evocative sepia-tone paintings, highlighted with bold, vibrant reds, beautifully illustrate the poetic text and breathe life into the characters. Demonstrating that what we say is not nearly as important as how we say it, this import provides a wonderful springboard for discussing the power of words and the importance of honesty and sincerity. It will be a welcome addition to picture-book collections and useful to teachers engaged in values education.—Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781433807923
  • Publisher: American Psychological Association
  • Publication date: 4/28/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 9.80 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2014

    A beautifully illustrated book about love and friendship in a wo

    A beautifully illustrated book about love and friendship in a world where money gives you the power to speak, but not to choose your words wisely. We received this book as a gift when my daughter was in preschool and both she and my younger son love it, even if they don't say as much in so many words. "Again" is all they have to say.

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  • Posted May 21, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    This book is for children ages 4-8. It is a wonderful story about self-expression in a world where people must buy and eat their words before they can say them. I am a school teacher and I have read this story to my students many times - they love it!

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