Matylda Bright and Tender by Holly M. McGhee
I absolutely did not want to read another book about death. Just like Wallace Wallace in Gordon Korman's Classic No More Dead Dogs, I was finished with books where an important character dies. As a result, little Matylda sat and sat and sat on my shelf. No more dead or dying characters. No more stories about death.
But then... there was that bright orange cover with the striking gecko image. Hard to ignore. Eventually I succumbed and read Matylda, Bright and Tender and I'm thankful that I did.
Sussy and her best friend Guy are on their way to the local pet shop when a tragic accident takes Guy's life. She is left with excruciatingly painful flashbacks, an emptiness inside that can never be filled and their shared pet gecko. What makes this story of hurt and healing distinctive is the voice of young Sussy. Holly H. McGhee captures the essence of a grieving soul. Narrative carefully straddles but never crosses the line between poignant and maudlin.
This slim middle grade book lives up to its name, a tale that is both bright and tender.
Trapping crickets "MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN!" Guy called to the crickets in the backyard.
Feeding crickets to a gecko "I couldn't stop looking at the antenna sticking out, still moving back and forth, slowly... It's between two worlds, You know what I mean...the antenna is still in this world, but the rest of her isn't anymore...like the cricket's here and somewhere else at the same time."
Luck "Luck's another story...You just get it, sometimes good, sometimes bad. Unless there's a ladybug, of course - then it's always good."
Friendship "It was like we were backward and forward at the same time." I'm okay with it," I said. "As long as you're with me!"
Power of love "Love can make anything happen...The world can be a perfect circle sometimes."
Turning back time "I wanted to do it over, and I couldn't do it over. The spokes came fast, faster, spinning spinning spinning..
Loss "The days came and floated in and out, and my blinds were open and they were closed, and I lay in my bed and I wanted to go to the boy I loved, I wanted to go to Guy, to follow the path of my friend."
Healing "You and me, Matylda with a y, we're different now."
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Prior to reading McGhee's book, I was vaguely aware of leopard geckos, but had little specific knowledge about these fascinating little reptiles and their capability to be excellent pets. Need further convincing? Check out this video.
Just look at that face. Peer into those expressive eyes. Who can resist such little charmers? Not Guy. Not Sussy. Not me.