Maggie McGillicuddy’s Eye for Trouble, by Susan Hughes/Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan, (Oct. 2016, Kids Can Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771382915
Recommended for ages 4-8
This fun look at imagination appeals to a kid’s sense of play, but also teaches them to be aware of their surroundings. Maggie McGillicuddy sits on her porch, knitting away, and sees things a little differently. When she sees a shadow on the wall, she just knows it’s a hungry tiger! She clacks her knitting needles and scares that wildcat away. That’s no tree branch behind the pizza delivery girl’s bike, it’s a snake! She whacks her walking stick and scares that slippery snake right off. But when Charlie, her next door neighbor, is about to run into the street while chasing a ball, Maggie springs into action – this is no figment of her imagination!
This is such a great story about imagination and playing little games with yourself, but it makes a point about being aware, too. When Maggie sees that Charlie’s in danger, there’s no clacking of knitting needles or whacking a walking stick, she yells and gets Charlie’s attention – she makes him very aware of his surroundings! And playing games with your imagination is a fun way of being aware of what’s around you, too. Charlie and Maggie bond over their active imaginations, and invite the reader in, with repeated wink and nudge phrases like, “you see it there, don’t you?”
The artwork is rendered in watercolor, pencil crayon, gouache and collage, all coming together to give a light, fun tone to the book. Kids will recognize the places where Maggie’s and Charlie’s imaginations take root: tree roots that become snakes, shadows that become wild animals, herds of elephants out on the horizon and a dinosaur lurking behind a bush. I love the movement in illustrator Brooke Kerrigan’s work, too; Maggie’s scarf sways gently until she jumps to action: then, it swings outward, almost at attention. When all is well, the scarf gently relaxes at Maggie’s feet. Throughout the book, the scarf gets longer until both Maggie and Charlie are wearing it, looped around their necks.
Read this and talk to kids about being safe: from looking both ways before crossing a street to knowing street signs and where you are. Maybe even link this story to a book on community helpers, so kids know who to turn to if they need assistance. Have kids draw pictures of what they see in their imaginations when they look outside and make up a story of their own about what’s in the hallway!
Very good for Pre-K and elementary collections. The fun of imagination is contagious.