Steve's life is a bit topsy turvy right now. The new baby isn't doing well and has been in and out of the hospital, which means his parents are tired and distracted. His little sister Nicole doesn't really understand what's going on, and now Steve is having strange dreams of someone saying they can help fix the baby if he'll only say yes to helping them. But can he trust the dreams? Do the creatures really have the baby's best interest at heart? If Steve helps them will it really help his family or could he be hurting the very people he's trying to protect?
You can learn more about Kenneth Oppel on his website or GoodReads or follow him on Twitter.
You can learn more about Jon Klassen on his tumblr or GoodReads or follow him on Twitter.
I had the chance to meet these two at Book Expo America this year where they so kindly autographed my Advance Reader Copy of this book. They were so much fun and such lovely authors to meet. NaomiRuth brought Wombly the Wombat and the two of them were absolutely hilarious as they tried to figure out what he was. I love being able to meet authors!
Now on to my mini review of the book. There are some spoilers here. I usually try to keep my reviews spoiler free, but really can't manage that in this case, so be forewarned.
What I Liked:
- I loved the illustrations. I just adore Klassen's style - it's so stark and simple and striking and beautiful. I particularly liked the way the chapters were demarcated by adding wasps - so chapter 1 had 1 wasp, chapter 4 had 4, etc.
- I liked that Steve struggled with anxiety and obsessive compulsions. It was so great to read about a kid dealing with these things in the middle of the larger issues going on with his family. And it wasn't magically solved at the end. though he makes progress in understanding himself and finding some ways to help live with and work through some of his struggles.
- I liked that the family was cohesive. Even with all the stress of things going on, there was a complete family unit who loved and cared for each other even in the middle of the strain when they aren't always nice to each other, you could tell they all still loved each other.
- I loved the message it sent that physical and mental perfection are not and should not be our goal. Our deficiencies, problems, struggles - the things that make us different - are what make us us.
What I Would Have Liked:
- I would have liked to get a little better sense of how old Steve was. He seemed younger to me at the beginning, but as the story went on I realized he was most likely older than I had originally thought. Unless I missed it, I wish there had been some sort of indication as to his grade or age.
- One of the things that made me uncomfortable was the knife left by the mysterious knife sharpener. I understand that it was part of the sort of mystical aspect of the book, but I wasn't sure I liked the message it sent of making it the weapon Steve literally wields to try to destroy the creatures.
- Again, I realize that they were mystical creatures, but if anybody had a fear of wasps, this would certainly not allay their fears in any way and I can see some kids being really affected, particularly by the ending with the swarms attacking and nearly killing Steve. So this isn't so much an I-didn't-like-it thing as a it-might-be-too-much-for-some-kids thing.
- It's a beautiful and touching story with gorgeous illustrations. Except for the intensity of the wasp swarms at the end, the message overall was a moving one about the importance of embracing our flaws and caring for our family in the midst of difficult circumstances.
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