Brave Molly

illus. by Brooke Boynton-Hughes. 58p. Chronicle. Apr. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452161006.
K-Gr 3-In this nearly wordless picture book, a young girl summons the courage to overcome her fears and vanquish the ever-present monster that only she can see. The opening spread zooms in on Molly's pencil sketch of this antagonist, made just frightening enough by scratchy cross-hatched lines and undefined features. From her window seat, the lonely girl gazes longingly at three children sitting on a nearby bench, but she is kept from joining them by the monster, which looms nearby. She finally heads outdoors, and though the boy greets her with a wave, the monster remains omnipotent. When the boy leaves a book behind, Molly is determined to return it. It will take a harrowing journey through the woods, with the monster (which multiplies into many monsters) close on her heels, before Molly understands that she must stop running away and stand up to her fears (the book is returned and a friendship is forged). The detailed, vividly expressive mixed-media illustrations convey the action while allowing readers to interpret the story for themselves. The monster is never named, and children can rely on their own experiences to verbalize how Molly is feeling; in the process, they can also consider their own anxieties and develop empathy for others. The scene in which Molly conquers her monsters (they are literally blown off the page by her explosion of courage and resolve) is empowering.
VERDICT Offering much to digest and discuss, this tale is a superb choice for fostering social emotional learning.-Joy Fleishhacker, Pikes Peak Library District, Colorado Springs

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