My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a gorgeous little story book with a big, big heart (that comes with the most gorgeous smile – that of Michael Jackson!)
Wylie is a young boy living in down-trodden Gary, Indiana. He briefly met Michael when MJ paid a visit to the town of his birth in the early 2000s. But now Michael was gone, and sitting at a birthday celebration outside Michael’s childhood home, Wylie is depressed.
Then his hero appears, sitting beside him – not a look-alike either. It’s really Michael Jackson, and he has a message for Wylie – the importance of a smile. Michael encourages Wylie to smile at his mother, at his teacher, at a homeless man in the street, at some of his classmates with whom he had been afraid to connect.
Gradually Wylie begins to see the cumulative effect a genuine smile, freely given, can have on himself and those around him. Imagine magnifying that effect on a global scale – what a change for the better it would make in the world!
I love Brenda Jenkyns’ previous MJ story books, and this one contains the same charm and ageless appeal as Ever After and Forever Loved. The illustrations this time around are by Cecile Duteil and are appropriately charming. I’m not quite sure why she has Michael wearing his arm band on the wrong arm in the illustration on page 30, but regardless she accurately depicts the happy, smiling MJ that we fans love. (And I especially love the one on page 12!)
This is a slightly more complex story than Brenda’s two previous books, where the focus was clearly on Michael – his story, his life, his passing and his legacy. Here it is about one young fan learning, through Michael’s example, to change himself and subsequently those around him for the better.
The book could just as easily have been called “Make that Change” or “The Smile Project”, since this is what Wylie undertakes with Michael’s encouragement. “Smile Effect” just seems to me a bit abrupt as a title.
I also noticed that Michael refers to the Butterfly Effect when explaining to Wylie the impact of his smile – and then goes on to use an analogy about the ripples of water radiating out in a pond. This leaves the reference to the butterfly unexplained – which is a shame, because Michael has a song by that name and displayed a love for butterflies during his life time (even having them embroidered on to one of his jackets).
But, these are minor quibbles, and should in no way indicate any reservations on my part in recommending this beautiful little book AND it’s important message – not just to fans, but to readers everywhere, of all ages and races.
Review by Kerry Hennigan
5 May 2015