I read two children's novels yesterday, very similar but very different as well. Both are for 2nd-4th graders and were highly illustrated. I really liked one and really enjoyed the setting (my old neighborhood in south Minneapolis) of the other.
Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell was delightful. Ottoline is an eight year old girl who lives in an apartment building shaped like a pepperpot. Her parents are professors and travel the world looking for odd and interesting things to collect. When they are on the road, Ottoline is left in the care of Mister Munroe, a hairy creature born in the bogs of Norway (think Cousin Itt from the Addams Family). Alice is certified in wearing disguises which comes in very handy as she solves the mystery of a ring of cat burglars. I chuckled often, pored over the pictures (an integral part of the story) and was truly disappointed when I came to the last page. I sincerely hope there will be more books about Ottoline and the devoted Mister Munroe.
Julia Gillian (and the art of knowing) by Alison McGhee was a mixed bag. Julia is nine years old, the only child of two teachers who are spending the summer in school, working to become the best teachers ever. Consequently, Julia, in the company of her devoted Saint Bernard Bigfoot, is on her own much of the time. She is allowed independence as long as she stays within a nine-square-block area surrounding her home in south Minneapolis. She has a close friend/babysitter in her apartment building, an understanding and sympathetic soul in the owner of the neighborhood hardware store and a new friendship with a little girl worrying about starting kindergarten in the fall. All of the elements are there but Julia is too self-aware and precocious--I found it really hard to empathize with her. I really enjoyed knowing all of the places mentioned in the book and want to eat at Quang, the Vietnamese restaurant at 28th and Nicollet (yes, it really exists) but the book deserves a shrug of the shoulders rather than a thumb to the sky.
Next on my reading list is a pile of juvenile nonfiction. I can't wait to stretch out on my daybed and read and read and read.
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