Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review - The Stray

The Stray
by Molly Ruttan
Date: 2020
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Adopting an extraterrestrial leads to mixed results!

When a family goes for a stroll one morning and encounters an adorable little creature with no collar or tag (who just happens to be sitting in the wreckage of an unidentified crash-landed object), they happily adopt the lovable stray. They name him Grub and set about training him, but that works surprisingly... poorly. Taking him for a walk is an unexpected adventure, too. As hard as they try to make Grub feel at home, it's just not working. Could he already have a family of his own? Maybe he isn't really a stray, after all--just lost. But how on earth will they be able to find his family when he seems to come from somewhere... out of this world?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This looked like it would be cute, but it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. The illustrations are lovely, and the text is strong... but there's something sort of offensive about the whole thing.

A family finds a little creature in a crashed spaceship. They take him home and try to get him to be their pet. But Grub (as they call him) is not really trainable, and has a habit of making objects float. He doesn't seem very happy, either, so the family decides they need to find out who he actually belongs to.

What irked me was the initial assumption made by the family that Grub was little more than a pet. He was in the wreckage of a flying saucer, which led me to believe that he was the one flying it. (There was no mention of anyone else in the ship.) So what's the first thing the humans do? Put a collar and leash on the poor guy and selfishly treat him like their dog. Then they make the assumption that he's someone else's pet. These assumptions bothered me. How do they know Grub wasn't an intelligent being with agency? The way they treated him was rather disturbing, and what it brought to mind for me was colonial expansionists encountering indigenous peoples and viewing them as unintelligent sub-humans. How did this family know that Grub wasn't actually the pilot of that flying saucer? They weren't necessarily unkind to him, but they treated him in a condescending, infantilizing way that made me uncomfortable.

I don't know if I'd recommend this one or not. Maybe if there were some discussion about the family's questionable treatment of poor Grub, it could be a good opening for a conversation. Other than that, though, I don't think the message here is one I'd want to see perpetuated.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 2.17 out of 5

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