Score: 94/100 (9.4 out of 10)
Edgar Allen Know and His Big Busy Brain is a conceptually brilliant and well-illustrated children's book by Rahni Davies, illustrated by Barbara Owczarek. The book follows a young boy named Edgar Allen, inspired by the poet of the same name, who is imaginative, creative, and brilliant. Accompanying his extraordinary nature, he seems to suffer from a range of possible learning disabilities, mental illness, or conditions including ADD, ADHD, OCD, Asperger's, and/or depression.
Edgar Allen Know and His Big Busy Brain is an intriguing and inspiring children's book that reminds parents and children alike that even those who suffer from conditions that make them seem “different” can be phenomenal human beings. While this is a rather common theme or topic in children's books, it's no less powerful here. In fact, it's presented in a rather unique and special way. The book doesn't beat you over the head with Edgar Allan's condition(s) or attempt to be preachy about a particular message. Instead, this book is very subtle, patient, and trusting of the audience to “get it” without having to be told. We commend and appreciate that!
This book is also a reminder that many brilliant and successful people throughout history—if not most of them—had something presumably “wrong” with them. Many of them suffered from something, diagnosed or not. However, they were brilliant and successful despite of the things they suffered from.
The poet Edgar Allan Poe is a good example. He was someone who very likely suffered from depression (at the very least) following multiple major deaths in his life including his parents and wife. However, his depression carried and inspired him to write some of the most memorable lines of poetry in the English language. This is an experience shared by many writers and creators. Anne Rice once said that we should write from where the pain is. Pain, suffering, and struggling aren't always a bad thing. Sometimes they push and motivate us toward bigger and better things. Sometimes they make us stronger. Sometimes they teach us things.
We see that in Edgar Allan's experiences, especially when he struggles to ride a bike and starts to believe that his failures are socially unacceptable. He takes this especially hard and begins to think that HE is socially unacceptable. It's hard not to empathize, sympathize, and feel for Edgar Allan. Everyone who has failed at something (which is all of us) knows that feeling. It's hard not to take it hard. It's hard not to get down on yourself. However, failures can teach us the best lessons.
Something that this book does well is to show the affects of having a strong circle of support and people around you who encourage and lift you up when you are feeling down. It's a powerful message to the people in those types of circles that what they do really matters. Case in point: Edgar Allan's mother recognizes that something is wrong and is able to encourage and lift him up. She's able to give him a better perspective on things.
This is in stark contrast to the real-life poet, Edgar Allan Poe, who did not receive much support from his foster parents and was missing his biological ones.
Edgar Allan, in this book, is able to find the courage and inspiration to push forward and finally learn to ride a bicycle.
Something else that stands out about Edgar Allan is that he's a quirky and “strange” person who still manages to be cool. His brilliance comes through with his knowledge of history and of strange things like the correct temperature of hot cocoa.
What really carries this book is the awesome art-work by Barbara Owczarek. Funny enough, Edgar Allan is the worst or most simplistically illustrated thing in this book—everything else is sharp and detailed, particularly the animals and backgrounds. There are so many great Easter eggs in the illustrations in this book. The ravens themselves are Easter eggs. There are also hints that allude to Edgar Allan's interests and character including various books about science and toys related to different sciences. He also has a fascination with bicycles, which is interesting despite struggling to ride one.
All in all, this is a really fascinating children's book.
Check it out on Amazon!