Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review - What's Up, Maloo?

What's Up, Maloo?
by Geneviève Godbout
Date: 2020
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Maloo the kangaroo has lost his hop. Can his friends help him find it again? This sweet picture book explores the idea of sadness and the importance of friendship through ups and downs.

No other kangeroo can hop like Maloo! But one day Maloo's friends find him stepping instead of hopping. What's wrong, Maloo? His pals look for ways to help Maloo regain the spring in his step. With patience, support and a little "hop" from his friends, Maloo gets his bounce back.

Simple text and adorable art convey the power of friendship over a gloomy mood in Geneviève Godbout's charming debut as both author and illustrator.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

What's Up, Maloo? features a cute kangaroo and a number of other friendly critters. The illustrations are nice, but I'm a bit confused by the message. Or, rather, I'm confused about the message for this intended audience. Maloo doesn't just seem a little down. He seems like he has full-blown clinical depression. Suddenly, he can't hop (even though he was able to do it previously--and joyfully--with no problems). His friends have to come up with a way to get a kangaroo to be able to hop again.

While I'm sure some older readers will be able to relate, I'm not sure toddlers are going to be able to empathize with a clinically depressed kangaroo. Maybe this is just what I read into it, but I thought Maloo's sudden inability to hop seemed extreme, and therefore pathological. To make matters worse, he's shown "getting over" this severe depression with just a little bit of help from his friends. I think I would've preferred to see the inability to hop explained better--maybe there's an actual reason he doesn't feel like hopping, so that it doesn't come across as a random chemical imbalance--or else a more inconclusive ending that doesn't imply that you can get over severe depression with one kind gesture from your friends.

The pictures are lovely, though. I especially liked seeing Maloo's friends trying to keep up with him using their pogo sticks.

I think parents with depression are probably going to get more out of this than their kids are. I'd be hesitant to recommend it to everyone, though, because it does have the potential to minimize what can be a very serious mental illness. Parental guidance and some conversation are definitely suggested with this one.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books (NY) for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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