cover image Matylda, Bright and Tender

Matylda, Bright and Tender

Holly M. McGhee. Candlewick, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-7636-8951-3

Fourth-graders Sussy and Guy are inseparable, sharing everything—including a leopard gecko they name Matylda. Though Matylda seems to prefer Guy, who is unfazed by the fact that she eats live food (and her own old skin), Sussy loves her, too. When Guy dies protecting Sussy, she channels her pain into caring for Matylda, believing the lizard keenly feels Guy’s loss. Driven by her desire to keep Matylda happy and safe, Sussy begins lying and stealing, becoming increasingly reckless as she fails to confront her grief. At its core, this is a sincere, tender story of friendship: Sussy recounts memories of adventures and conversations with Guy, drawing parallels between the friend she desperately misses and the steadfast Matylda. Even Sussy’s thefts serve as a kind of distorted mirror to qualities she admires in Guy and Matylda. Sussy’s deep sorrow hovers at the edges of each page, but McGhee (the author of Dessert First and other books, writing as Hallie Durand) handles the story’s heavy emotions with a light touch, using Sussy’s changing relationship with Matylda and a classmate to provide balance. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Mar.)