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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Blog No. 40-The Castafiore Emerald by Hergé

GENRE: Graphic Novels
Title: The Adventures of Tintin: The Castafiore Emerald
Author: Hergé

Bibliographic Information:
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Ages: 13 and up (for content)
Paperback: 62 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company; 1st American edition (September 30, 1975)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316358428
ISBN-13: 978-0316358422


Reader’s Annotation:
Young reporter Tintin gets a visit from one of the people he least enjoys—the opera singer Bianca Castafiore—and finds himself wrapped up in yet another adventure. One of the funniest of the Tintin comics, the humor is not so much due to the plot, but to the miscommunication between the characters.

Plot Summary:
One of the most popular European comic strips of the 20th century, Hergé’s The Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin) was first published in a Belgian newspaper in 1929. Since then, the strips have been collected into a series of books which were largely published in the sixties, and are still popular today among teens as “graphic novels.”

Tintin is a young reporter who goes on a series of adventures with his terrier, Snowy. Nearly every Tintin book has all of the series regulars: Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock, the dumb detectives Thompson and Thompson, and, of course, Bianca Castafiore, the infamous opera singer whom Tintin despises—most especially when she sings Faust.

In this story, Castafiore visits Tintin and Haddock with her entire group—Irma, her maid; Wagner her accompanist, and all of the wackies that follow her—the photographers, the gypsies, the local musicians and the TV crews. In truth, not much really happens in this book, but it is one of the first that centers on Castafiore. She has always been around in Tintin’s other adventures, but usually as a minor character; this time, she is center stage. Most of the fun in this particular story is in the dialogue between the characters, and not the plot, for there really isn’t one. But if you are a fan of Tintin, you won’t want to miss this installment!

Critical Evaluation:
Maybe it’s me, but I just don’t enjoy Tintin.

The art is great, but the stories (in this case, the lack thereof) leave me flat. Of course, I have not really enjoyed any type of comics outside of the Peanuts Series since I was ten years old, so it would take something really spectacular for me to happily read through. However, lots of people all over the world love Tintin, so who am I to criticize?

At my library, we have several of the Tintin books, both in English and in French. Students who study French seem to really love Tintin—perhaps something is lost in translation. However, I adore the art, and love looking at the pictures. The characters are typical comic strip—exaggerated, stereotypical and wacky.

Perhaps I should have chosen a different Tintin to read as my first experience. In this one, nothing really happens, but the dialogue is based on misunderstandings between the characters. In a way, it reminds me a bit of the old Abbot and Costello type of humor. Do any of you teens even know about Abbot and Costello?

In any event, if you love comics or even anime, you probably will love Tintin, too. I’m just not a fan. In one regard, I agree with Tintin: Bianca Castafiore is very annoying!

Reading level/Interest Age:
The publisher states that the reading level for the Tintin books starts at eight. Perhaps that is true for Europeans, but not for Americans. Frankly, I think one would have to be a teen to find this stuff funny.

Information about the Author:
Georges Remi, aka Hergé was born in 1907, and began writing the Tintin comic strips in Belgium in 1929. Yes, the strip is that old! H used a clear line style in his drawing, which was often imitated by other artists. He created many other characters, but Tintin is the one for which he is best known. During World War II, the original publisher of Tintin comics stopped publishing, and Herge was picked up by a German newspaper, which made him quite unpopular in his native Belgium—some felt he was a traitor for teeming up with the enemy. His early comics featuring Tintin were a bit racist, yet, eventually he fixed them.
After the war he began collaborating with Ray LeBlanc on a Tintin Magazine, and the character became wildly popular. In fact, Tintin became so popular that Herge had to create his own studio and hire others to draw Tintin to keep up with the demand. Eventually, Herge became very depressed, and his work began to suffer. His best works of Tintin are considered to be Tintin in Tibet, and the one I reviewed—The Castafiore Emerald. I still don’t get it!

Curriculum Ties:
Good for adjunct reading in a French Language class.

Challenge Issues:

Why I Included This Book:
We carry them at our library, and I felt I should be aware of the books. Our French teacher loves them! But then, she is from Paris…

Cover image courtesy of: http://books4u.in/uploads/The%20Adventure%20of%20TINTIN%20The%20Castafiore%20Emerald%20(Custom).jpg

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