Review: Johnny the Walrus by Matt Walsh

Johnny is a little boy with a big imagination. One day he pretends to be a big scary dinosaur, the next day he’s a knight in shining armor or a playful puppy. But when the internet people find out Johnny likes to make-believe, he’s forced to make a decision between the little boy he is and the things he pretends to be — and he’s not allowed to change his mind. 

As anyone that knows me or has seen my social media feeds may guess, my politics and personal views skew very much to the left. However one of the things I can do without letting my personal biases interfere too much is read and critically examine books for review thanks in no small part to my time as a judge for the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Awards in the UK.

Johnny the Walrus is a board book and at first glance appears to be a book aimed at children. The majority of the audience of board books are pre-readers. The text makes use of complex words and sentences way beyond the understanding of children, this leads me to believe that the intended audience are adults that have a specific social and political views.

From a purely analytical viewpoint, Johnny the Walrus is way too wordy for a board book, if I completely ignore the words on the protest signs (page 11) and the posters in the woke doctor’s office (pages 12 & 13) the story consists of 267 words (301 with the words from the protest signs and posters).

On the off-chance that Mr. Walsh ever reads this review: board books should have a maximum of around 100 words, 301 is more in line with an average picture book for young readers. It would work better as a picture book after an editor has taken a look at it.

Moving on to the art style, I am not aware of the illustrator K. Reece, their art style leans towards rough sketches as if they did not have time to finish the drawings before they had color added prior to publication.

You can also play spot the author insert – I saw him twice, in a picture on page 3 wearing a diaper and also as the zookeeper.

Overall this book is about as subtle as a brick through a window. This is not to say that there won’t be an audience for this work, as rough as it is but it comes across as written for a specific group of people, to reinforce the viewpoints that they already hold.

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