Monday, June 18, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 78: Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

By the time you read this, I'll be far from home, in the heart of the American southwest.  Why do I only visit the desert in the middle of summer?  I'm like the anti-snowbird, heading south for the hot season and going north come winter.  Clever, clever me.

Below, my review of uSea's Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day.

Impressions before reading:  I commented on this story when it was first posted: "I have nothing to say, save this: that was absolutely, spectacularly amazing."  In retrospect, "amazingly spectacular" would have flowed better, but the point is I liked it a lot, and I'm really hoping that it's as good as I remember it being.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Derpy Ditzy Doo tells Dinky a story, narrated and illustrated in the style of the classic Winnie-the-Pooh stories (not to be confused with some of the later Disney adaptations, which range from respectable to deplorable).

Thoughts after reading:  The story's post has links to both fimfiction and google doc copies, the latter containing a redirect to the former.  Both the author and I recommend reading this on fimfiction, as it has fewer spacing issues and overall better formatting (as regards this particular story, anyway.  My general preference is still for stories in gdocs, but I'm flexible).

The technical side of this story is pretty solid; the only consistent problem is the lack of commas setting off names.  "'Good morning Applejack,' said Ditzy" and the like are the norm throughout.  I don't know why so many authors seem to be unfamiliar with this rule, but it's one of the most common problems I see in fanfiction.  That aside, the editing was pretty good.

That comment about the commas is pretty much the only negative thing I have to say about this story.  As an homage to children's stories in general and A.A. Milne's most famous works in particular, Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day is thoroughly deserving of any superlative I could think to toss at it.  Perhaps its most noted feature are its illustrations and the way it occasionally plays with its text, and these are certainly worth mentioning: the simple but colorful drawings are an excellent stylistic match for the story being told.  But the writing is equally well done.

uSea uses simple, direct narration to mimic the just-so quality which many readers, children and adults alike, find so pleasing in classic English bedtime stories.  Ditzy Doo is a tangled, meandering tale of the titular mare going about a very unusual day, but the narrative turns that lack of focus into a strength by tying it to the meta-story.  The writing style does an excellent job of capturing the simplistic, repetitive nature of children's lit without ever becoming boring itself.  All told, there's very little in the writing or structure that doesn't accomplish exactly what it is meant to.

The characters throughout are wonderfully realized; most are ponies cast in the role of characters from the Winnie-the-Pooh stories (Carrot Top as Rabbit, Pinkie as Tigger, etc.), and I was shocked by how well each pony was executed while recognizably "playing the part," so to speak, of another character.  Pinkie was an especial highlight for me; her bouncy exuberance and cheery willfulness, coupled with the completely sincere narration and dialogue, made her a pleasure to read.  Even if a reader had somehow managed to live their life without any familiarity with Pooh and company, the story needs no explanation lying outside of familiarity with their show in order to be enjoyed.

That last sentence is a key element to Ditzy Doo's success: this story is totally capable of standing alone.  Yes, it leans heavily on Milne's best-known stories, and its writing style is clearly borrowed from that of he and other children's authors of the same time (Arthur Ransom, Beatrix Potter, et al).  But even those who didn't grow up listening to Old Peter's Russian Tales or The Wind in the Willows being read to them before bed each night will have no difficulty in enjoying this tale on its own merits.

Star rating:    (what does this mean?)

This was one of those rare stories where I had a great silly grin plastered across my face from start to finish.  Other than some minor punctuation issues, I really can't think of anything bad to say about this.  It's a nostalgia trip, sure, but it's more than that: it's a pleasure to read in its own right.

Recommendation:  Everyone should read this story.  I suppose some readers might find the writing style affectatious, but the quality of execution is undeniable.

Next time:  Blueblood Returns, by Geldon


  1. First off, there was a little too much Pooh for my taste. Even for kid’s books, Milne’s work always felt rather light (the same is true of the Disney adaptations) because those stories didn’t really have a lot of drama in them. Because of that, it was rather unexciting to read even at the end. While I can understand wanting to pay homage to an a writer, far more interesting to me would be to write a story as they would with these characters as opposed to just copying their plots (plus the Disney adaptation already combined both the flood and the blustery day stories). As a minor note, I question if Ditzy would really call herself “a mare of very little brain” to her own daughter (because she is the one telling the story after all).

    That said, I was impressed with overall style. What was done with the formatting was great and the pictures were a highlight for me (unlike too many others where they are distracting). And I was able to enjoy a few parts (Spike cutting the rope being a highlight). I’ll second what Chris said about the characters fitting the role of both Milne’s characters while staying true to their nature in the show.

    It’s nice and cute, so I could see a child enjoying this (and there are certainly childern's stories I still enjoy) but this wasn't one of them, even nostalgia fails to evoke much because I used to be a big Pooh fan. Really, my lack of enjoyment here is admittedly more of a personal preference rather than any flaws in the work itself.

    1. Proving once and for all that I am five years old:

      "there was a little too much Pooh for my taste."

      ... Sorry. I have nothing else to add to that.

  2. I didn't read this one until I saw it was coming up, realized the title was a direct reference to Winnie-the-Pooh, and knew I had to get off my lazy butt and look it over.

    Personally, I liked the story well enough, and enjoyed how it followed Milne's style to the letter. It's a very simple, very charming tale, which is something you don't see in fiction much anymore. Granted, it really seemed to follow Pooh a bit too much at times, but overall, I really enjoyed it.

    As for the next one...well...let's just wait 'til Wednesday.

  3. I totally get that it's nearly flawless in what it's doing, but I can't bring myself to care about it one jot. Never read any Pooh books or anything similar, and now I am undeniably old, I have no rose tinted glasses through which to stare.

    Old. Old I tells ya.