Saturday, May 5, 2018

Book Review: Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Livy and her mom go to Australia to visit her grandmother, who they last saw five years earlier when Livy was just five years old. She is astonished to open her closet door and find a small green creature wearing a ratty old chicken costume, waiting for her, as he promised. Bob is beyond dismayed to discover Livy doesn't remember him. After all, he's been in a closet for 5 years, reading a dictionary and rebuilding a Lego pirate ship hundreds of times, as the only ways to pass the time.

Curious as to what he might be, Livy asks him a lot of questions, and soon they both discover that Bob doesn't know what he is or where he came from. And he realizes he's missing his own mom, who he doesn't remember. So they start to investigate. Bob does remember finding Livy by the well, soaking wet, as his first memory. Livy has a bad idea of why she must have been wet and that Bob likely saved her life. They find a clue in a photograph of an old book of folklore which has a picture of a Bob-creature on the front, but they can't find the book!

Meanwhile, Livy's grandmother is having quiet but fraught conversations with her neighbors and her bank, as there's been a drought on for five years now, and it looks like not only will she lose her farm, but the whole town might go under. And when a nearby little boy goes missing, they all turn out to look for him, even Bob. And he might find more than he bargained for.

This book is very hard to classify. Bob isn't an imaginary friend and he isn't a mythological creature of the kind we're familiar with, and he's not a stuffed animal like Winnie the Pooh. Also the book isn't set up to be a series like that. It has the whimsy of James and the Giant Peach (at a younger level) and the Australian setting is foreign and different. Often with children's stories that have a real timeless feel to them, which you believe might become future classics, it's easy to find parallels to other stories, and I keep trying them out--maybe he's kind of like Paddington the Bear?--but none are quite right. Because Bob is Bob. He doesn't need to be anyone else. Nor does Livy. Their story is pretty unique and I loved it.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

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