Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon
By Patty Lovell, illustrated by David Catrow
Penguin Putnam US Books
The much adored protagonist from the confidence-boosting Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, returns in an equally upbeat story which simply fizzes with imaginative play. Molly’s grandma didn’t have any fancy toys in her day; she made her own. So Molly does just that! When gadget-obsessed Gertie moves in next door, Molly quickly introduces her to the joys of cardboard boxes, tree palaces and cloud-gazing.
What we like about it
Unusually, but particularly so in the case of USA picture books, there is a disabled character whose disability isn’t referenced at all. Indeed the representation is so casual it took the reviewers at Letterbox Library a second glance to spot it! When we first meet Gertie, she is sat on her doorstep. Her crutches lie on the ground behind her and these continue to be an ‘aside’ throughout the story – used when she walks, but when standing, driving her toy car, or lolling on her beanbag, they are just somewhere off to the side.
There are so many other things to love about this book: the promotion of the great outdoors as a world of play; the gentle debunking of materialism; the adult-less world; the instinctive spontaneous friendship; the delightful knickerbocker-glory-coloured pictures of a garage stuffed with hat boxes, 'walls with thingamajigs', penguin-shaped clouds and a Jacuzzi made of cicada.
Questions & learning points
Molly Lou Melon is an established character with a loyal following amongst many American readers. Is there something especially valuable/strategic in introducing a disabled character into a ‘character series’?
Molly and Gertie mirror each other’s physical actions throughout the book (e.g. when Molly drives, Gertie does; when Gertie lies down, so does Molly); is this mirroring a successful strategy for countering assumptions about disabled people?
Kerry: I love the child-friendly context of imaginative play; Molly Lou simply thinks things up and then makes them happen! I also enjoyed the internal voice of Molly Lou’s grandma enthusing about the ‘good ol’ days’. Gertie is a great character: she arrives with a department store’s worth of STUFF but she is quickly impressed and amazed- on every page- by Molly’s home-crafted inventions. This generosity of Gertie’s carries through to her offering of a home made hollyhock doll to Molly Lou. On the final pages, these two children have literally exhausted themselves through play, play, play.
Have you read this book? Add your thoughts.