Goodreads: Emma and the Blue Genie
Publication Date: 2014 (original 2002)
Translator: Oliver Latsch
Illustrator: Kerstin Meyer
Emma loves to sit beside the ocean and listen to the waves. One night she finds more than she bargained for when a bottle washes up on shore and she releases a blue genie. Karim, however, cannot grant any more wishes until he retrieves his nose ring from the yellow genie who stole it. Along with her faithful dog, Emma will journey to Karim’s homeland to steal back the ring and save a country.
Emma and the Blue Genie features a spunky heroine, a faithful doggy, and a captivating plotline. Add a few quirky secondary characters, some annoying brothers, and the beauty of the moonlight on the ocean and you have everything you need for a delightful fairytale. Unfortunately, though I prepared myself to be charmed, the execution of the plot left me feeling cheated.
The narration drew me in from the start. Charming and knowing, it introduces Emma with her boisterous brothers and her need for solitude by the waves. It evokes familiarity and wonder and longing in quick succession. It is a translation, but it feels like it could be the original. It seems like the type of narration that guarantee a most fantastic story.
However, though I loved the bold Emma and her equally bold (though small) dog, and though I eagerly flew with them to strange lands and new adventures, I ultimately wanted more from them than I received. Emma, you see, volunteers to travel with her new friend the blue genie Karim to save his caliph and retrieve his nose ring from a very evil yellow genie. She insists that her plucky dog can help. However, (and this is a SPOILER) Emma and her dog do not live up to her word. Emma does nothing but fall into that fatal trap of so many excellent female characters–she arrives only to get herself captured and then needs to be rescued by the men. She does not in any way help them, not even providing advice or a minor distraction. Arguably she informs Karim of the location of his nose ring, but it’s not much to boast of, considering the evil genie is wearing it in plain sight. Her dog proves a little more assertive, barking at the genie when no one else will dare speak against him. It’s a small victory.
Despite the charm of the story and the narration, I found I simply could not enjoy yet another narrative where the female does nothing but get herself captured. I understand Emma is a young girl and not likely to prove a match for a powerful genie, but she could have had a little more agency–just the tiniest smidge! I like her wonder, her thirst for beauty, and her bravery–I just wish she could use those things to create her own story, rather than sitting around in someone else’s.