{book} stand tall molly lou melon

DAY 17

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell, Illustrated by David Catrow

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001

My friend Sharie recommended Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon and when I found it at the Library I wasn’t sure about the cover. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked it up on my own. But then, I can be an idiot sometimes.

Even when the class bully at her new school makes fun of her, Molly remembers what her grandmother told her and feels good about herself.—publisher

My above remark about the cover might suggest that Catrow’s pencil and watercolor illustrations in Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon are just not my cup of tea. While I’m still figuring out why I’m not drawn to the cover*, I can say had I picked it up and flipped open to the first pages I would have brought it home. The color palette Catrow chose is my cup of tea. And I adore his use of proportion. Molly Lou is tiny. But what Catrow also does is not lose her in the greatness of her surroundings. What he also does is not make her so cute as to undermine the tension in the story. It is easy to anticipate trouble for Molly Lou when she goes to her new school. However, at the same time, throughout the story Patty Lovell follows any wince with a “grandma’s right you know!” Catrow does the same. And maybe we do have confidence that everything will be alright with Molly Lou when the inevitable bully surfaces.

There was a small problem and it is sort of embarrassing for me to admit. When the story talks about Molly Lou’s buck teeth, and shared grandma’s advice to “smile big and the world will smile right alongside you,” the next page turn features that “and grandma was right” moment…and I (the world) did not smile right with her. I actually pulled back because there was this huge face staring at me. I didn’t yelp though, not outwardly anyway. I appreciate the effect it was going for, but well, I feel like such a jerk now. Maybe if it had a occurred a few more attributes in.

Anyway, the images have a Dr. Seuss meets Norman Rockwell feel that works. It doesn’t downplay the reality that dealing with traits (physical or otherwise) that people tend to target in unpleasant ways is difficult, but it manages a liveliness that says: I’m not going to let that get me down and neither should you. And the story really does emphasize that our fears in dealing with bullies need not come to fruition. Molly Lou shuts her bully up and shames him good, but not because she is aggressive in return but because she is who she is—quite impressive. She makes friends and I like how when we arrive at the ending a particular new friendship is formed that is not in the least contrived.

As for the last page of the story with that letter to grandma? the perfect punctuation mark.

There more than a few books (picture books on up) that deal with bullying but how to be straightforward with advice without sounding message-y? Write a good narrative like Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon, embrace the straightforward intent and make that advice ring true.

recommendations… this is the kind of book I would recommend reading when a child is young and not yet in school or even dealing with bullies yet. It does not beg for a big talk, just a hmmm, life, whatcha know, having confidence is good, period. When does Molly Lou receive her advice? before the big move and the new school, when she felt normal (in her home and in nature) and had friends. This also a good book for early readers, it has a rhythmic quality; I immediately adopted a more southerly drawl for it.

of note: It has a pretty diverse cast in animal, insect and human critters so kudos there! and I adore Catrow’s sets and settings.

*it really comes down to: I could do without the yellow.

{images belong to David Catrow}

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