Welcome to Day 23 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring the Matylda, Bright & Tender Blog Tour, from author Holly M. McGhee and Candlewick Press!
By Holly M. McGhee
March 14, 2017
Source: from pub for review
In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.
Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.
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Fourth graders, Sussy and Guy, are the very best of friends. They share everything together and love each other very much. When the two BFFs decide they need something of their own to love and nurture, they get a leopard gecko named Matylda. Even though Guy seems a bit better at handling and feeding Matylda, Sussy is determined to love her just as much. And when a tragic accident shakes Sussy’s world topsy-turvy, both Sussy and Matylda discover things about love, loss, and friendship that they never knew.
Ok, y’all, you better have the tissues handy when reading this book because it’s a heartbreaking, sniffle-inducing, tearjerker for sure! Holly M. McGhee’s Matylda, Bright & Tender is aptly named, for it is both tender and bright, heart-wrenching and heartwarming, poignant and full of hope.
Told through Sussy’s POV, Matylda, Bright & Tender unfolds through an earnest, vulnerable, and sweetly charming voice. Young readers will fall in love with Sussy, Guy, their parents, and Matylda, and will love experiencing and exploring their world so full of laughs, love, and heart. Sussy and Guy’s genuine, love-filled friendship is so endearing and lovable and I just wanted to wrap them both in a gigantic hug.
It’s not a spoiler to say that the story takes a tragic turn and one character’s death leaves the other characters in a world of grief and greyness. Holly M. McGhee beautifully and achingly explores the pains and startling revelations that come with grief and loss, and does so in ways that are appropriate and accessible to her intended audience.
Sussy, Guy, and Matylda’s story is the kind that sits in your heart for a long time and, while it brings the tears, and also brings so much light, hope, and happiness. Readers, young and old alike, will love and be moved by Matylda, Bright & Tender.
Q1. What three words best describe your book, Matylda, Bright & Tender?
Love. Geckos. Hope.
Q2. Grab a copy of Matylda, Bright & Tender and answer the following:
Favorite chapter? Chapter 32, I think, because that’s when Sussy is finally in the light again and she is buoyant / hopeful / the future is hers—no ceilings!
Favorite page? Page 195 maybe, when Sussy understands that Guy’s death can be folded into who she is / she doesn’t have to fight it anymore.
Favorite setting? I am very fond of the herp department in Total Pets, the pet store in the neighborhood. And the goldfish section too.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentences teaser: 193 “You’re not scared anymore, are you?” She’d been that dull color for a few days, so I knew this might be coming . . . but her timing, it couldn’t be a coincidence. “You want to start over, too?” I rolled her skin, fresh, between my fingers.
Q3. Who are your favorite middle-grade hero and heroine? What is your favorite middle-grade book?
That’s an impossible question, especially as I read so much as an agent. But Stanley Yelnats from Holes comes to mind immediately, as well as Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web. For favorite novel, I might have to say The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, although I can barely stand the thought of reading it again because I am always worried it will end differently and they won’t survive. (I’ve read it to each of my children and we are always on the edge of our seats with worry.)
Q4. Why do you think middle-grade lit is so important?
What better way to learn about the challenges of life than between the covers of a book? What better to show our children they can get through anything?
Q5. If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Matylda, Bright & Tender, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Have you ever had those chocolates that are infused with spices? My cupcake would be very, very dark chocolate with turmeric icing—I would call it The Warrior; it would bring strength and daring to those who eat it.
Holly M. McGhee, who formerly wrote under the name Hallie Durand, is the author of three picture books, including Mitchell’s License and Mitchell Goes Bowling, both illustrated by Tony Fucile, and a chapter-book series. She lives with her family, her antisocial dog, and her two leopard geckos (Speedy and Midnight) in Maplewood, New Jersey.