A Mon­ster Like Me

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Middle Grade - KAREN RIGBY

Wendy S. Swore, Shadow Moun­tain Pub­lish­ing (MARCH) Hard­cover $16.99 (304pp) 978-1-62972-555-0

So­phie’s got a he­man­gioma—a sure sign that she’s a mon­ster, she thinks. In Wendy S. Swore’s ten­der A Mon­ster Like Me, the imag­i­na­tive grade schooler bat­tles iso­la­tion and bul­ly­ing to dis­cover that grow­ing stronger some­times means re­al­iz­ing that there’s more to life than meets the eye.

Newly ar­rived in Port­land, So­phie and her sin­gle mother, Mar­lene, find them­selves set­tling into fa­mil­iar pat­terns. Early chap­ters high­light So­phie’s self-pro­tec­tive mea­sures, from wear­ing gog­gles to feign­ing ill­ness. Armed with her beloved Big Book of Mon­sters—a com­fort­ing way to make sense of a threat­en­ing world— So­phie grad­u­ally learns that her in­sis­tence on fan­tasy is cost­ing her re­la­tion­ships.

The book strikes a care­ful bal­ance, de­pict­ing re­al­is­tic cru­el­ties in ev­ery­day en­coun­ters like school­yard name-call­ing. So­phie’s shame and un­ease are ren­dered with heartrend­ing clar­ity, along­side Mar­lene’s com­pli­cated love, which both pro­tects So­phie and holds her back. Other char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing a man dis­fig­ured in com­bat, serve as thought­ful coun­ter­points, show­ing So­phie how oth­ers live with phys­i­cal dif­fer­ences. A more dra­matic, in­evitable plot turn jolts So­phie out of her bub­ble; she sees there are al­ways peo­ple with more se­ri­ous prob­lems.

The book shines in its por­trayal of find­ing self-ac­cep­tance. Pages from the mon­ster book add oc­ca­sional life tips and lead to­ward lessons in grat­i­tude, and So­phie’s flights of in­spi­ra­tion set her on a search for a cure. If some char­ac­ters seem too sweet—in­clud­ing Au­tumn, a girl who de­clares her­self a best friend, and Au­tumn’s Ir­ish grand­mother, who brings old-world charm with her fairy tale cot­tage home—they also pro­vide needed safety nets.

A Mon­ster Like Me is an in­tel­li­gent and provoca­tive story about a mem­o­rable girl who dis­cov­ers her own unique tal­ents, re­mind­ing those around her that ev­ery­one—no mat­ter how they look—feels love and pain.

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