When I was signing books at the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association conference recently, I asked the Penguin Randomhouse rep what book at the children’s booth was popular. She handed me Dory Fantasmagory.
I read the chapter book and was enamored by the drawings and the genuine child language and actions. Turns out the creator, Abby Hanlon, was a first grade teacher. Inspired by her students’ storytelling and drawings, Abby began to write her own stories for children. This is what I admire most – she taught herself to draw after not having drawn since childhood! (Something I hope to do someday.)
Not only did Abby capture the body language of young kids in her drawings, but she nailed the older sibling/pesky baby in the family relationship. The youngest kid, Dory, has a wild imagination that’s ticklishly funny, like when she pretends to be her brother’s pet dog, and her conversations with her imaginary monster friend, Mary.
Here’s an overview of the storyline: As the youngest in her family, Dory really wants attention, and more than anything she wants her brother and sister to play with her. But she’s too much of a baby for them, so she’s left to her own devices—including her wild imagination and untiring energy. Her siblings may roll their eyes at her childish games, but Dory has lots of things to do: outsmarting the monsters all over the house, escaping from prison (aka time-out), and exacting revenge on her sister’s favorite doll. And when they really need her, daring Dory will prove her bravery (which involves plunging her hand in the toilet), and finally get exactly what she has been looking for.
I recommend this book for kids who are the baby in the family and for authors studying examples of well done chapter books. Another Dory story is slated for 2015. I’m sure young readers can’t wait!
Abby Hanlon is a former teacher who taught creative writing and first grade in the New York City public school system. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her husband and their two children.