With so many magazines covering the television I thought I'd kick out a review on one such literary pressure release before consigning it to the recycle bin. The publication in hand are the issues of ABC's Funtime with Friends Magazine and the Funtime Special, Fimbles Magazine. Straight off I have to wonder what exactly would be on the covers of each of the issues given that not one of my copies have a cover.
After the glossing and inviting contents page, each issue kicks off with a two or four page story using the characters from one of the many programs on the ABC Kids region. The set up of each is triggered well, but along the way they all seem to fall into a sense of rush and in bizarre moves tie up the short, short story without having really gone anywhere with the characters. Take the first story, featuring Merlin the Magical Puppy, it starts with Merlin bored as hell and wanting something to play. Hide and Seek is the answer and goes about with his friend Kizzie. Five paragraphs are taken to the lead up and then shot down in an instant in the last when Merlin gets stuck and figures that the game isn't to his liking. Wishing himself home the moral of the story is that you shouldn't have fun with friends and that staying home is far better than learning about the world outside. Destructive if ever there was a subliminal message to hammer to the kids. But then with them homebound the better entertainment comes to them in the magazine or from the blasting of the waves from the television. Either way, the kids don't move beyond their world and the stories suggest as much, inhibiting even, like the natural flow of a good story.
"Next, Bing made a snowman that looked just like him. Then Bong made a snow Bong!" - Funtime with Friends, Tiny Planets, Issue 4, 2003
The graphics and images are on the most part clear, distinct and give off this light and happy feeling. It's a tactic used by the ads that support their products in the pages of the magazine. At times I was thrown looking for a puzzle or reason only to find myself staring at a page on the videos available at ABC shops and Centres and not another one of those "odd one out" puzzles. Answers, for the most part, are provided upside-down on the pages. A few which would have been helpful were omitted so the wondering intent of the mind continues. A trick question pops up in issue 4 with the Bananas in Pyjamas that doesn't get explained. Fantastic for mean babysitters, torture for the innocent child yet to experience such pain in the illusion of matters.
Counting, literacy and shape recognition plays big in the pages. Guessing that the target audience would hover under the age of 8 I'm stumped if I can really tackle every single puzzle thrown at me from the pages within. In the first issue there is a grid tracing exercise that has rather large cells compared to the intricacy of the image, this being Jeff the purple Wiggle. Back in high school drawing a new styled Volkswagen Beetle was hard enough on its own but a tight grid helped smooth things out to an extent and the rest was less guess work and more finesse from one line to the next. I'm not sure how they expect a kid to knock this one off without complaining about it not being friendly enough.
As simple a read as they may appear to be on the surface they take around ten minutes to polish off in an in-depth reflective read through. Going back with a crayon in hand, however, is where the fun floods back into the fingers and the brain starts shooting off and firing neurons. They've printed it on this semi-glossy stock that doesn't take well to the application of the oils in crayons so creativity skyrockets in trying to get them to really "stick."
From the very first issue there are already letters in the letter page, which seems odd. Mixy from the Ferals helms the page and looks to only select letters that have accompanying photos or drawings. Like many motor magazines it doesn't matter how incoherent the words may be, as long as photos are present, that's enough to warrant print. Kids looking for advice or answers aren't going to get anything more than a dead sketched bunny on the masthead. They couldn't even take a photo of the puppet. In comparison, the centrefold posters (Bob the Builder scored two) are more inviting and even welcoming to an extent.
Fimbles Magazine is focussed mainly around the characters of the Fimbles programme (Florrie, Fimbo, Baby Pom, Rockit, Roly Mo, Bessie and Ribble). There seems to be no more variety than you would expect in the pages of a regular Funtime with Friends. Indeed that would be the case until you notice footnotes on most pages. Footnotes which give you hints, tips and advice as to how the exercise can enrich the experience off the page and what a parent/guardian can do to make it even more educationally rewarding.
Clearly out of their intended audience I still found these issues to be rather fun and entertaining. Hopefully this'll provide impetus to finally get around to reading Tales From Under Your Bed.
Reviewed on Thursday, 6 November 2003