Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (InfoSoup)

Willowdean doesn’t spend her days worrying about how fat she is, though her mother’s nickname of “Dumplin'” can be a problem, especially when used in public. Her mother is in charge of the local beauty pageant and has never encouraged Will to enter, though she has told Will’s best friend Ellen that she could win. When a boy at her work at a local fast food joint starts to flirt with Will, she is shocked. Bo is a gorgeous guy and someone that moves in a different social level than Will. When the two of them start to make out after work in their own secret place, Will begins to question her comfort with her body. As Will’s confidence plummets, she makes a big decision. She’s going to enter the Miss Clover City pageant. As she reclaims her self-image, she ends up helping other girls do the same.

Murphy’s novel is simply brilliant. Willowdean is a wonderful protagonist and the claustrophobic setting of a small southern town is also perfection. It’s that setting that lets Will really shine, since it wears on her and the reader. Add in the Dolly Parton songs, the loss of a beloved aunt who served as a second parent, and a handful of red suckers, and this novel will have you head-over-heels in love with Will and everything that she stands for.

Murphy gets the fat-girl personality just right. The feeling of complete self-acceptance that you can have and then the way it can disappear as if it never existed. Murphy though does not accept that. Instead Will fights back, recovers from her funk about herself, insists on relationships on her own terms, and heck even falls in love for good measure.

A book that will have you turning on Dolly yourself, this novel for teens shines and dazzles. It’s for girls of every size, because none of us feel worthy enough. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have by Edward van de Vendel

The Dog That Nino Didn't Have by Edward Van de Vendel

The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have by Edward van de Vendel, illustrated by Anton Van Hertbruggen (InfoSoup)

Nino has a dog, but it’s a dog he never had. It’s invisible to everyone else, but Nino can see it clearly. It’s a dog that climbs trees like a squirrel, loves deep water, and likes salty tears. But one day, that dog disappeared and a new dog took his place. It was a dog that everyone could see, one that had it’s own personality that is completely different from Nino’s other dog. Soon though, Nino is enjoying the new dog. But that doesn’t stop him from thinking up lots more animals that he’s also never had.

Just opening this book, you know you are in for a strange and beautiful treat. Originally published in Belgium, the book carries that elusive European flavor about it. The concept of an invisible friend or pet is not a new one, but as it is done here it takes on extra weight and meaning. Here, the pretend dog is a companion for a lonely boy, a comfort when he needs one, and someone who understands that he misses his father desperately. His real dog can’t quite do all of that at first, but he steadily does take over those duties just in a different way. This is a book about change, resilience and the imagination.

The art here is part of weaving that odd world. It is done in 70s angles and styles with the A-frame houses and long, low station wagons as vehicles. Even the colors hearken back to that time. The book is filled with night skies and bright hot days. Some pages are busy with details while others are open and wide white. Beautiful, strange and wondrous.

This is a strikingly unique book that will speak to anyone who is missing a parent and needs a dog of their own to help. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.