Score: 84/100 (8.4 out of 10)
The Merry Meerkats Go!! is a promising, positive, and energetic children's book by Ty Loyd-Calhoun, illustrated by Cameron Wilson.
The book follows a family of anthropomorphic Meerkats as they compete, play, and socialize throughout the day. Shirley Meerkat introduces us to her family including James Meerkat, Junior Meerkat, and Dorothy Meerkat.
We are also introduced to Naomi Meerkat (who is called a “jokester”), Ruth Meerkat (who is called the best dancer), and Lois Meerkat.
Now, right off the bat, you may have noticed there are a lot of characters in this children's book to try to keep track of, and you'd be right. Now, you could excuse this with the explanation that Meerkats are extremely social creatures who live in groups that can number in the dozens. We could also understand that the author may have wanted to pay homage or to include characters and names of friends and/or family.
The author does make a valiant and interesting attempt to differentiate between these different Meerkat characters including giving them a distinct color associated with them. Each character and each name is given a color. These characters wear a bandanna with the color associated with them. This is a lot like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and in fact the characters somewhat resemble the turtles.
Shirley- wears pink
Junior- wears green
Dorothy- wears purple
Naomi- wears orange
Ruth- wears red
Lois- wears yellow
Even knowing this, it's still somewhat difficult to keep track of them all.
The Meerkats do have somewhat of a positive and adventurous day. They eat bugs together. They do calisthenics and stretching they call “KATSCAT.” This is something that could be relatable for students who start off the school day with similar guided morning workouts. The Meerkats then proceed to the highlight of their day: a race across the desert. This is an arduous affair that the Meerkats bravely and courageous undergo both for exercise and for fun. You also get the sense that it's a great bonding activity for all of them.
Their bravery and courage are tested when they encounter a frightening and very hungry predator: an eagle named Ebo. Ebo is effectively the villain of this book and a possible candidate for Best Villain, though his appearance is very brief. It does leave an impression. He is also, bizarrely, the best drawn and illustrated thing in the entire book, especially on page 26 when his highly-detailed head appears at the mouth of the cave.
Speaking of the illustrations, they do leave a bit to be desired. Thankfully, they're bright and colorful. Unfortunately, there's something a bit wonky about them. Keep in mind that our standards for children's book illustrations have become pretty unreasonably high with the many professionally illustrated ones we've read over the years.
The last thing that bothered us a bit was the writing itself. This book really needed to be proofread. With that said, we read a book earlier this month by a doctor, and that has just as many grammatical issues as this one. However, that doesn't change the fact that it still tarnished the reading experience a little bit.
The very first passage in the book is a bit bizarre. The words in the statement “What a Great Day to be Alive” are capitalized for some reason. There should be a comma after “Good Morning” (and “Morning” doesn't need to be capitalized in this context). The first sentence is actually a run-on sentence with two sentence fragments. “Wake up Wake up you sleepy heads” should read “Wake up! Wake up, you sleepy heads.” However, the strangest part of this passage is that Shirley Meerkat—out of absolutely nowhere—says that she “can do anything boys can do.” Um... ok... we never said you couldn't. You're a female anthropomorphic animal character in an unserious, lighthearted children's book, do you need to get all in-your-face with the social commentary on the first page? Sheesh. How about you show us rather than just flat-out telling us?
The same can be said about Naomi and Lois. We shouldn't be told that one is funny and the other is a good dancer, we should be shown that.
Commas also appear or fail to appear in random places. We'd be ok if it were consistent, but it isn't. Sometimes they appear at the end of quotations, sometimes inside of them.
With that said, there are some commendable things about the book. For one, it doubles as a workbook, and the activities actually help to flesh out the characters. For example, one of them is a pair of jokes by Naomi. Another shows off some of Dorothy's intelligence.
There's also an undeniable positivity to this book that we actually appreciated. It does have great potential, especially as a possible series. All the author needs to do is correct/improve some of the writing and the art.
Check it out on Amazon!