Delia wins a contest to spend a weekend with Barbie and The Rockers, for her essay “What Music Means to Me.” Delia is to try out for a place at the Los Angeles High School of Music, and has been practicing hard with her violin. When she sees the glamorous lifestyle of The Rockers, though, she decides she’ll give up violin and learn to play guitar, so she can join the band. The Rockers show Delia that being in a rock band isn’t all fun, though–it’s a lot of hard work, too. So, Delia decides to keep practicing with her violin, and The Rockers promise her a seat at any of their concerts.
Barbie and The Rockers: The Fan, written by Teddy Slater and illustrated by Tom Tierney, features characters from the popular Barbie toys. My summary above makes the book sound like a pretty good book for kids, but it’s got some problems, too.
First, the book (like the toys, I suppose) implies that the kind of ‘glamorous’ clothing worn by the band is something that Delia (and, by proxy, all girls) should be envious of, and that they should feel that ordinary clothing is inadequate. It says that Delia “was dazzled by the glittering clothes and couldn’t help comparing them with her own skirt and sweater. She felt painfully plain–especially when Derek’s eyes lit up at the sight of Diva modeling one of the outfits.” But Delia is wearing a perfectly nice outfit. One might expect the book to give the lesson that it’s not necessary to dress in flashy clothing, and that it’s the person, not the clothes, that matters, but it doesn’t. The message from the book is that Delia is right to be ashamed of her (relatively) simple clothing, and that if girls want to attract the eyes of someone like Derek, they must also dress in fancy clothing. Bad lesson.
As for the lesson that it’s hard work being in a rock band: well, that’s true, but that’s all the lesson is. They just have Delia watch them spend a few hours trying to record an album, and she decides that it’s too much work, and that’s that. They mention that when Delia has a violin concert, they want tickets, because they’re fans of her, too, but that just comes out of the blue. The book doesn’t really push the message that Delia’s hard work practicing with the violin is also valuable, or anything like that. The book just says that being in a rock band and wearing expensive clothing is way better than anything else, but you have to spend time recording music in order to do it. And… that’s it.
The art is weird. The characters are often in very odd poses, with strange facial expressions. Delia has a pretty much continuous blush, and everyone tends to have an odd open-mouthed look, all the time. And their outfits and hair are just hilarious.
Barbie and The Rockers: The Fan isn’t wholly unsalvageable, but it misses plenty of opportunities for good lessons, and seems to teach very bad lessons. I can’t recommend this one.