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The Eyes of Despero is a Penguin Young Reader book level 4. I can't tell you how much I wish there was some standardisation throughout the publishing industry in reading levels. Unless you have read other books in the same series, level 4 tells you nothing. With Oxford reading tree, level 4 would be very easy. Choosing one at random, I felt the most difficult word was "butcher" and 90% or more of the words are common high frequency words like "red", " jump" and "find". Most pages have two to three short sentences, and these books would be aimed at children who are just starting to read. Step Into Reading is much more complex, but I would still put these on the level of a Horrid Henry Book, and the I Can Read series is only slightly more challenging.
This book is by far, the most challenging level four I have come across, and a large number of the words are complex. There will also be a number of words the younger reader may be unfamiliar with. Some of the words I feel might be challenging include "unconscious", "motioned", and "Shakespeare". My son ( age 7) was uncertain the meaning of "augment" and "rogue" as well, and of course some of the Green Lantern names are a real mouthful like "G'neesmacher". Personally, I feel a few new words is an advantage in a child's book - it means they are expanding their vocabulary, but too many may frustrate a child and make reading difficult. At age 7, this book was smack in the middle of the Goldilocks zone for my son - or just right. The illustrations in this book are excellent, but there is more text than illustration, and there are a few pages that are text only. The fact that this book is so much more difficult than the super hero readers from other publishers has drawn some criticism, but that doesn't make this a bad book - it just means you need to be a bit more careful what age range you select this for.
I chose this book for one reason only. It has Green Lanterns and after quite a lot of searching, this was the only picture book I could find with them, and more specifically, it has Hal Jordan - the real Green Lantern. It also has G'nort, who my children really liked, Sinestro and Guy Gardener. Of course the star of the book is Batman, but we get another chance to see Batman in green here. The story is taken directly from the animated series "Batman the Brave and the Bold".
The story begins with Batman having a minor spat with the Caped Crusader. After quickly defeating the criminal - a green lantern ring appears in the air. The ring creates a bubble which transports Batman to Oa, the Green Lantern's base, but what should be a hive of activity is almost empty and deserted. Batman finds the only 3 Green Lanterns left, confined in the Green Lantern's Jail. They are Sinestro, Guy Gardener and G'nort. The last two are in for minor offences, Sinestro's is a bit more serious But Batman needs all the help he can get to find out what has happened to all of the other Green Lanterns.
The story really is quite good, with far more plot development than your average children's picture book. I won't go so far as to say this is something adults could read on their own, but I have seen some graphic novels with less plot, so over all I think this is quite good. Both of my children enjoyed this, although at age 7 my oldest tends to read stories only a few times and then move onto something new, and he does very much prefer his graphic novels to this type of book. As this has 48 pages, and far more text then similar books, and least it kept him busy for a little while and he did still want his brother to get more books in the series ( he always encourages his brother to choose books he likes too), but given a choice, he always chooses graphic novels for himself now. That is in no way a criticism of the book, and as much as he loves his graphic novels I am a firm believer in a wide variety of reading material, so books like this do have their place in our house, and I would continue to buy them, even if I did not have a younger child in the house. But, as much as I like this book, I have to admit, it does have the drawback that by the time a child reaches the level of reading competence required for this book - they may feel too old for picture books. While my son is happy to read this - he wouldn't want this or any other picture book in his room. He thinks he is too mature.
This book was bought for both of my boys, and it the youngest who gets the most use from it. While a great many children who love Batman the Brave and the Bold on television may be too young to read this - there is no reason parents can not read it for them. I do feel that even as a storybook this book may have been just a bit advanced for him though. I have had to tell him what a number of words meant, I am still quite sure he just doesn't get the reference to Shakespeare. The pictures are the very best I have seen in this type of book, but there may not be enough of them to hold a very young child's interest, and many of them are on the small side. As mentioned, this is 48 pages, predominately text. That means this is a long story for bedtime, and definitely not the one you want to find at the bottom of the stack after reading half a dozen shorter books and with another child's stack still waiting. He has just turned four now, and while he did enjoy this at age three - he is a huge fan of the Green Lanterns and used to long stories. Even then there were a few times he didn't finish the book when we first bought it and he does get more enjoyment from this book now at age 4. I feel this book may be too long and complex for toddlers.
I feel that this book best best suits ages 4 -8 with a limited amount of leeway on either side. Of course if you should buy this book and find your child is a bit too young for it, you can always put it away for a few months and try again. I would not expect most children to be able to read this on their own before age 7. A few will be more advanced - but then a good few will still have difficulty with this book at age 7 too. It all depends on if they have reached that magical point where reading comprehension has really taken hold. While a fair number of children may still find this a challenging read at age 10, I am afraid most would be put off by the fact that it is a picture book. My own son loves his comics and graphic novels - which have more pictures, but children do not have to make sense. If they feel something is too babyish for them, there is not much chance of convincing them otherwise. I know he does still enjoy these as he sits nearby and listens while read to his brother, laughing at the funny parts, and does read them himself, but I think he wants to look more grown up. If only he understood - childhood is a gift may as well enjoy it!
I am giving these a full 5 stars. Whether you like it or not may well depend on the age level you buy this for. This is one book that would benefit so much from a look inside feature, but as long as you buy it for a child of the right reading level, or for a child who is happy to sit still for text heavy books, I think this an excellent choice for Batman or Green Lantern fans.