Bob - Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead
About a year ago, a student of mine borrowed this from the library and really enjoyed it. There are so many books on my 'must-read' pile, that I didn't really think much else of it. Then, I happened to see it on the shelf during a peruse through the aisles at my local Dymocks. When I took it to the counter, the sales-woman gave me the biggest smile and said that she thinks it's a fantastic book. I popped it in my bag the next week when I was heading to the hairdressers - and never have I been so annoyed to have to go wash my hair! I was 100 pages in (about half way), and then as soon as I got home I devoured the rest. Everyone was right - this is fantastic.
Livy is an 11-year-old girl raised in America, visiting her Australian grandmother in a small country town for the first time in 5 years. The town is suffering extreme drought, but that's the least of Livy's concern - she can't remember anything about the last time she was there! Then she finds Bob in the cupboard in her room - a zombie wearing a chicken suit. They embark on a mission to find out all the things she can't remember, and end up discovering more than that.
Rating: 5 out of 5. This was adorable on so many levels.
Age Suggestion: Any! Honestly, there isn't anything about this to preclude any age of kids, except maybe how willing they are to listen to a some-what long story.
Ability Range: 9+. While the text is pretty small, the margins are huge, and there are several whole page illustrations throughout.
Content Notes: My favourite thing about this book is that I feel like there's not much to say in this section except praise. The author does a great job at straddling an American vs Australian audience. There are comments explaining vocab differences (e.g. jumper vs. sweatshirt) which I think is great. As an Aussie teacher, kids are so familiar with the American terms for things, and it's nice to see both options. Livy is a girl who has never successfully stayed away from home without mum/dad, and her anxiety about both sleeping alone, and the social consequences of that, are portrayed so beautifully. It's hard to explain to kids that sometimes stomach aches are worries - and this does that perfectly. Livy's friend Sarah makes a very astute comment about Livy not wanting to play with dolls because she 'thinks she's too cool', not that she doesn't enjoy it.
Ultimately (and a bit spoilery.... so skip this section if you want to remain unaware), I was so ready for Bob to be some imaginative symbol for something going on in Livy's life. It's something I see often (see The Elephant by Peter Carnavas - review coming soon!) and actually really enjoyed the magical realism of the story.
Please, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy for yourself!