Baby’s First Bestiary: A guide to the best Pokémon literature
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With the meteoric rise of Pokémon Go, Nintendo has cemented its grip on another generation’s childhood. There was a time when Nintendo’s clutch on youth was something to be feared, with parents presuming that Mario and Link would leave little room for books in children’s lives. Indeed, Pokémon was one of the games most responsible for the rise of the Gameboy, long feared as the destroyer of youth reading.
Of course, we now know that videogames have done little to displace the humble book. Rather, for many children of the nineties, Pokémon was one of the spurs that got us into the habit of carrying around a book with us at all times, no matter how ungainly that book was.
Since its earliest incarnations, Pokémon has been supported by a strong relationship with books published to help players navigate its strange and complex world. While the game itself features a digital “Pokédex” (an index of the different Pokémon), its pages are only filled out as the player catches the relevant Pokémon.
To those of us who spent our childhood summers playing with Gameboys, the physical edition Pokédex was an invaluable companion. In an age before the Internet, the Pokédex was the first and last bestiary a child monster hunter needed.
Now that children can consult their smartphones and tablets for many of their Pokémon needs, the Pokédex occupies a different space. Well-produced and filled with illustrations of the various Pokémon, the Pokédex is a monument to the easy browsability of a physical book. Sure, you may not be able to search it by keyword, but you can flip through it and wait for something to grab your attention in a way that’s just not possible by browsing through an interminable list of web pages.
Moreover, there is a value to the Pokedex in a world of long summer holidays and time away from internet connections. There is a certain reliability to the Pokédex’s sturdy physicality. In a world of ephemeral Pokémon, the Pokédex makes things feel more real in a way that only print seems to manage.
While the Pokémon games were themselves hugely successful, a healthy portion of its success has been due to its adaptations, including the animated series and the Pokémon Adventures comics.
First published in 1997, Pokémon Adventures series offers something of an alternate take on the world of Pokémon. Over time, the games and attached properties have shied away from the darker tone of the original games (not least of which the Pokémon graveyard of the first game).
For any of that die-hard contingent for whom there would only ever be the 151 Pokémon of the original games, the combination of Pokémon Go and the Pokémon Adventures series is an excellent way to raise your children in the world you grew up in, a world before the shameless bloat of Pokémon Gold and Silver.
Of course, this means that your children will grow up in a dark world without the joy of Mudkip or Axolotl, but ours is not to judge...
As hinted at above, there is something strangely ephemeral about the world of Pokémon. It’s not surprising that children grow quite attached to the poor little creatures in the course of their digital dogfighting careers, but beyond the inevitable stuffed toys there’s little in the way of physical representation for that.
The nice thing about origami is that it’s a Pokémon-related rainy-day-activity that is unlikely to end with kids giving up halfway through to go and play Pokémon games. Once the beast has started to take shape, there should be enough recognition there for children to feel encouraged to finish things out.
As well we all know, a love of paper leads directly to a love of books as inevitably as a Pikachu with a Thunder Stone becomes a Raichu. That’s just cold hard science.
In the same spirit of rainy day arts and crafts as the above post, The Pokémon How to Draw Kit is another great opportunity for you to turn your children’s love for Pokémon into something a chance for them to develop their skills in new directions.
The book itself is just as you’d expect, a step-by-step guide on how to accurately reproduce the most popular of the game’s characters, but beyond that, it’s an excellent jumping off point for you to get your children doing something more creative for themselves. Once they’ve got a handle on their favourite Pokémon, it shouldn’t take too much prodding for you to get them drawing new Pokémon of their own.