Monti and Leo: A Newcomer in Pocketville

Candlewick/Walker. (Monti and Leo). May 2024. 80p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781536222777.
Gr 1-3–Pocketville is “a quiet little town” and the animal inhabitants “like it that way.” When we meet Monti the Mole, he represents the “perfect routine” that they have created in their town and daily lives. One day when a stranger named Leo arrives, Monti and the others aren’t sure how to handle “these strangers that never respect our ways.” Through the chapter format and digitally rendered frames, readers follow along as Monti learns to find his voice to promote acceptance and understanding to even the loudest Pocketville citizen, Mrs. Sheep. The theme of friendship gets an upgrade in this tale that is rightfully dedicated “to anyone who’s ever felt like a stranger.” Kantorovitz covers a lot of territory with her characters and message in a format that works well as a beginner graphic novel. A natural color palette of light greens, blues, browns, and peaches is reminiscent of Arnold Lobel’s companions, Frog and Toad, and matches well with the frequent unstructured frames that bleed onto the white background. A unique addition of early sketches is included for the back matter.
VERDICT A story with a strong moral that represents a wide range of social and cultural talking points. Purchase where there is a need for beginner graphic novels, or for students who love any animal duo.

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