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The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books:
On-line Review

As far as we know, this is the first electronic book published by a major American children's book publisher; we therefore felt it deserved an electronic response.

The End of the Rainbow: Electronic Musings on an Electronic Publication.

Reuter, Bjarne. The End of the Rainbow; tr. by Anthea Bell. Viking, 1996. ISBN 0-525-45166-8.

Buster will be familiar to readers of Buster's World (BCCB 9/89) and Buster, "The Sheik of Hope Street" (1/92), and the young Dane is still marching to a different drummer. His move into the remedial class makes him more of an outcast than ever from his schoolmates, and his family is strained by his father's absence in an alcohol-abuse treatment program. Buster remains undaunted, however; not only does he get to witness the birth of his beloved teacher's new baby, he is heartened by the certainty that he is taking part in a quest, foretold in poetry, to save the magical land of Tristendor--which Buster eventually decides is his cherished corner of Copenhagen, threatened by the march of thoughtless urban renewal. Buster's adventures don't have the freshness that they did in the first two books, and his characterization as wise innocent is losing its subtlety; the book's dichotomy of cold technological logic and hopeful imagination is a bit cliched. There's still a fair amount of well-written humor and tenderness here, however. Buster's spirit remains admirable, and his fans will enjoy watching him triumph over those who have scorned him.

But they won't be able to do so by purchasing a book, at least not in English. The End of the Rainbow is displayed, chapter by chapter, on Penguin's web site (address above). Wired-up librarians and kids can read it there, if their connect-time isn't a problem, which makes for an interestingly different reading experience. The site's text is formatted in single-spaced lines with double-spacing between paragraphs, and small color graphics decorate the pages, making for an attractive yet quickly loading layout. Each chapter is separately linked, with full permissions and copyright information at the bottom, so that the effect is ultimately rather similar to reading a magazine serial, including the fact that you can't determine how long it is to the end of the story while you're reading an intermediate component.

The other option is, with Dutton's apparent blessing, to retrieve the material from the site and make your own book either by printing it out or by keeping it as your own private electronic copy. This is free, but it isn't as easy as it could be: a note forbids screen-capturing of text and points you to an e-mail address from which to request copies or get site information for a downloadable version (it's not clear whether or not e-mailing the chapters from the site is kosher). This isn't unreasonable, from a publishing standpoint--prospective audiences have a chance to read the book on-line and then, without having to do anything but type for a bit, can have their own copy. Nonetheless, it's a miscalculation of the medium, demanding a good deal more than the casual here-today-or-forget-it ethos of the net generally tolerates, and The End of the Rainbow , while amiable, isn't worth going to the ends of the earth for. Points for pioneering, Penguin, but next time make it instantly downloadable; software complexities make that process taxing enough without having to wait around to do it.

--Deborah Stevenson, Assistant Editor

This page was last updated on February 1, 1997.