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Review: Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

Review: Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes


Every time  Molly tries to go outdoors, her fear-monsters appear. 

They follow her down the pavement and prevent her from having conversations with new people. They crowd her and surround her and multiply no matter how far she runs. Eventually, Molly realises that if she ever wants to join in with other children, she will have to face her fears down. 

A beautiful wordless picture book about social anxiety.

The thing about social anxiety is that, on the surface, it can look like nothing is wrong. Like the person in question is being rude, or like they shun the company of other people. The truth is that the experience is intense. The fear that you won’t be liked, that other pepole are laughing at you, and that you’ve done everything the wrong way is a tremendous thing to deal with and it multiples inside you just like Molly’s monsters. 

The trouble is, walking away from social situations doesn’t defeat it. 

The story begins with Molly indoors. She is a happy, creative and intelligent girl whose love of art and reading can be seen around her bedroom. The trouble isn’t that she likes to spend time alone – and this is an important point because sometimes it feels as if society views social pastimes as superior to lone ones. The trouble is that when she wants to socialise, her fears stop her from making friends. I liked how the opening scene shows us how much Molly has to offer. A person skulking away may not look, at first glance, like the obvious friend, but make that little bit of effort and they might turn out to be interesting and kind. 

Molly’s monsters are dark shadows which hang over her. The way they darken any social situation and hound her away from other people is extremely evocative. 

As well as encouraging people to face down their fears and recognise their worries, this book will help others to empathise with people who have social anxiety. The wordless format is brilliant because it encourages the reader to ask what is going on and to take time to read the visual clues which we so often miss out on in the rush of real life. 

A wonderful and relatable book about social anxiety. 


Thanks to Abrams & Chronicle Books for my gifted copy. Opinions my own.

Middle Grade Reviews · Picture Book Reviews · Picture Books

Review: The Legend Of Sally Jones by Jakob Wegelius



Review: The Legend Of Sally Jones by Jakob Wegelius

About a hundred years ago, a gorilla was born. On that night, gorilla elders prophesied that she would meet with many misfortunes … So begins the story of Sally Jones, heroine of last year’s big hit The Murderer’s Ape. Sally’s journeys take her from Istanbul to Borneo to New York. Her run-in with an infamous jewel thief begins a series of unfortunate events which continue until Sally finds her home on The Hudson Queen.

sallyjones2Sally Jones was possibly my first choice for an origin story. She’s a feminist icon – a skilled engineer, proficient writer and not someone who submits to capture. It was lovely to see her life-story and to learn why she became so fiercely loyal to Koskela, and to find out how she came by her name.

One of the delights of The Murderer’s Ape was the line-drawings. The Legend Of Sally Jones is something between a graphic-novel and a picture book. It plays to Wegelius’s style, and the effect is like looking at cigarette cards. The key moments and turning points of Sally’s life are captured and when you’ve read through once it is as great a pleasure to flick through and pick out individual illustrations.

This book is all about atmosphere – if you love the steam-boats and expeditions and shady characters of 1900s adventure-books, this one is for you. A delightful companion which could be read before or after reading its sister-story.


Thanks to Pushkin Press for my copy of The Legend Of Sally Jones. Opinions my own.

Read more about Sally Jones in  The Murderer’s Ape

Picture Book Reviews

Goodnight Mr Clutterbuck by Mauri Kunnas



‘Goodnight, Gus buddy! Sleep tight!’ says Mr. Clutterbuck. He turns off the light and falls asleep instantly.

‘Goodnight, Clutterbuck,’ answers Gus.

But what’s this? Mr. Clutterbuck bolts upright in bed. Sound asleep, he trots out into the street. Mr. Clutterbuck is the town’s busiest slweepwalker, although he himself doesn’t know it.’

‘BzzzPSHAW … ha ha … BzzPSHAW!’ snores Mr Clutterbuck.

(Goodnight Mr Clutterbuck by Mauri Kunnas)bird

img_4304Mr Clutterbuck has got a reputation. Every night he sleepwalks, persued frantically by guinea-pig gus. Every night, Mr Clutterbuck causes lots of trouble. Noisy, messy trouble. Motor bike gangs end up tangled in washing lines. The sausage factory is eaten out of stock when Mr Clutterbuck lets the local dogs in. Every morning he wakes up to hear about what has happened on the breakfast news, with no idea he is the cause! 

The big joke is that Mr Clutterbuck appears to cause lots of trouble, but actually he puts lots of problems to rights. The motor bike gangs make peace, the sausage factory has its best custom in years and is saved from going bust … and the mystery of the Christening Spoon thief, which runs through the story, is solved thanks to Mr Clutterbuck. 

Mr Clutterbuck is an institution in Finland. He even has his own tourist attraction, The House Of Mr Clutterbuck, where children can reenact his adventures. Mauri Kunnas is a leading Finnish illustrator. I was pleased to have a chance to see her work. Reading books in translation is the first step to curiosity about and empathy with people in other parts of the world. 

img_4305.jpgChildren aged 4 -7 will be addicted to Mr Clutterbuck’s antics, and want the story read over and over again. It is visually busy, and there are liberal doses of naughty words like ‘butt’ and ‘poo’ to satisfy young readers. (Pretend to be shocked. It makes the satisfaction of hearing the word greater.) The text is broken into small chunks, which makes it rewarding for less confident readers, and it follows a familiar pattern. Repeated jokes cement this pattern, so we know there will be a big misunderstanding on the morning news, and that Gus the Guinea-Pig will be exhausted when Mr Clutterbuck wakes up. I can see children picking a favourite part, with the familiar pattern building anticipation before it comes. 

img_4303The book is almost like a graphic novel in that there is as much to read in the illustrations as there is in a text. As well as being visually imaginative (what would it look like if a snake played the drums?) there is a hunt for Mr Clutterbuck in the larger pictures. Children can compete to find him in a Where’s-Wally fashion. The reward is that he usually looks ridiculous, as he gathers more and more trouble on his way through town. When you reach the end, you realise the same is true of the spoon thief. 

If you know any reluctant readers, give this a try. It’s a low-pressue/high-reward read. 


Huge thanks to Sarah Mather and Turnaround Books who sent a copy in exchange for honest review.