Rating: 5 Stars
If you know me but at all, you probably have surmised at some point that I kinda dig Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not Buffy herself, because she got kind of self-righteous at times in later seasons, but the overall show itself. And yes, she is still a kick-ass heroine. And since I love the show and the world that Joss created SO MUCH, you can probably imagine my trepidation at the sight of this book. Not because it is a picture book, but that Buffy, Willow, and Xander are very obviously children. CHILDREN!
How can that be?! In canon, Buffy arrives in Sunnydale as a sophomore! She knew NO ONE! She was trying to ESCAPE HER DESTINY! (Let's set aside the movie, seeing as how Joss did that too when reworking his idea for television.)
That stuff is all true, and much like the movie, all of that will also have to be set aside too for the moment.
This book is absolutely perfect as an introduction to the world of Buffy. Given my own obsession as a teenager (and as a 30-something), I wanted a way to show my own little lady the non-scary parts of that world. Eleanor so badly wants to watch the show, though I keep telling her she has to wait until she is a little older. I don't now how much longer I will be able to hold off, but she is five, so I need to have some self-control. But...season one wouldn't be all that bad, right? RIGHT?? RIGHT!! The show is just so well-done, and she knows it is my favorite, thus increasing her interest.
Anyway. Back to the book.
In the book we meet Buffy as what can best be interpreted as a high school student, in my opinion anyway. As Buffy introduces herself, she is sitting in her room at her home, 1630 Revello Drive (The address isn't actually important to the book. I honestly just typed it without thinking. Because I still know details like that. After 20 years.) In this illustration with Buffy sitting on her bed, there are many items fans will recognize from throughout the series. Her outfit is reminiscent of what she wore to fight Faith at the end of season three. We see her weapons chest, Mr Pointy under her bed, a flyer for The Bronze. Ad on her nightstand we see Mr Gordo, and the cross Angel gave her, and the umbrella she received at Prom for being voted Class Protector. The only thing bugging me about this illustration is the lampshade. On the show Buffy had a small lamp on her nightstand and the shade was upside down. This lampshade is right-side up. It is bothering more than I care to admit.
Buffy says that she wasn't always tough, and that she used to be afraid of the dark. Instead of being transported back to L.A., Buffy becomes a young child in the same bedroom and it totally makes sense why. A) This is a picture book for kids and B) Buffy would literally be the only recognizable character if she was suddenly back in LA. The story would simply not work.
So, eight-year-old Buffy is afraid of the dark and hears weird noises coming from her closet. She invites her friends Willow and Xander to sleep over (very reminiscent of Killed By Death, what I feel is a vastly underrated episode from season 2). We even get a glimpse of Joyce peeking around the corner when Xan and Will arrive. So the friends have fun playing games, eating snacks and being kids. Until it is lights-out. We also see more nods to the series, as a Dorothy Hamill poster hangs on the wall in mini Buffy's room. And if you look closely at Buffy's mirror, you see what is meant to be the photo of Buffy, Xander, and Willow that was shown many times throughout the series - such as in season 3's Dead Man's Party, where Buffy has finally returned home and finds the picture on a shelf in the basement.
So, lights out, and the kids hear the same noises that Buffy heard the night before. They all get scared and Buffy wants to open the door, but Xan and Will are having none of it. The next day at school they talk to their librarian, Giles - who is holding the Vampyre book which he gave to Buffy the first time they meet in the series premier. Here Giles also tells Buffy she is a slayer and that would start training when she was older. he also tells her for now, Buffy just needs to act brave, open the door, and the monsters in her closet will be terrified.
Leaving their elementary school, the three decide to have another sleepover, and at this point I was wondering just what would be on the other side. Truly, I was hoping it would be a villain Buffy had faced at some point in the series. I was most pleasantly surprised to see not one, but several villains. I won't spoil which ones were there, it's a nice variety from throughout the series (I lied, spoiler alert - The Gentlemen are included and not scary at all), but I do have to say I was glad Angelus was not among them. That would have been weird. In fact, none of the Big Bads (The Master, Angelus, Mayor Wilkins, Adam, Glory, Dark Willow, or The First) were shown and that definitely makes sense to me. Those villains are all connected to the very darkest, bleakest moments for Buffy and the Scoobies, and did not have a place in this particular story.
First, Buffy scares the monsters and they all start crying. Then she, Willow, and Xander invite the monsters to the slumber party where they watch movies, play cards (OF COURSE Clem was playing, but no kittens to be seen anywhere), and build pillow forts. There's even a child-sized werewolf playing a guitar who Willow is dancing with. (Never mind that Oz didn't actually become a werewolf until his little cousin Jordy bit his finger during season two when he was a senior in high school!)
Okay, slight digs aside, I truly did love this book and I love that Eleanor loved it too. She gets to see that it is okay to be afraid, and even when you are afraid you can still be mighty and brave. She also keeps asking to watch the show and seriously, I don't know how much longer I can keep saying no. She is five though...