Monday, June 17, 2019

Review - When Molly Drew Dogs

When Molly Drew Dogs
by Deborah Kerbel
illustrated by Lis Xu
Date: 2019
Publisher: Owlkids Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

On the night before the first day of school, a pack of stray dogs moves into Molly’s head. They are friendly, but a bit wild. They scamper through her thoughts, yap at the door to her dreams, and scratch at her brain, begging to be let out. So Molly starts to draw them.

When Molly draws dogs, she feels better—but not everyone can see the value of her strange habit. Her teacher tells her to focus. A special tutor urges her to concentrate. But Molly can’t erase the dogs, even if she wants to. As her anxiety peaks, Molly runs away. Once she is found, safe and sound, people around Molly realize the protective power of her pack and how the dogs help tame her troubled feelings.

Inspired by the Japanese folktale, "The Boy Who Drew Cats," this story celebrates the healing powers of art and imagination while touching on important issues of anxiety, mental health, and ways to cope with emotions.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've come across a few picture books like this, ones that encourage children to run away when they have strong feelings. Those were older, though, and I assumed that idea was a relic from another time. Apparently not. Here we have a story in which a young girl is unable to concentrate. She's obviously creative, but adults just want to make her conform. When she doesn't, they lose their patience. So she runs away and puts herself in a potentially dangerous situation.

I just can't recommend a book with this kind of message. I hoped there would be something about accepting yourself and your gifts, but instead we got a supernatural twist that doesn't translate to real life at all, and an abrupt happy-ever-after ending that comes out of nowhere. Molly presumably still can't concentrate... but because her magic dogs chased away a robber, she gets a free pass in school? How is that supposed to help kids who might be struggling with ADHD or learning disabilities?

The pictures left me kind of cold. Nearly everyone is androgynous (and I'm not sure if that was a style choice or just from a lack of skill) and the dogs are scribbly. Some pages looked like a toddler was let loose with a pencil. It's just not very pleasing to the eye.

Overall, this was a disappointment. I'm really tired of reading books that are supposedly about dealing with emotions, only to find that the only coping skill offered boils down to "run away".

Thank you to NetGalley and Owlkids Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 2/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.83 out of 5

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