A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bob is co-written by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass, a formidable kids' book duo. Stead won the Newbery Medal for her compelling When You Reach Me, and Mass has written numerous novels for the age group, including her bestselling series The Candymakers. Bob is the story of a 10-year-old girl visiting her grandmother in Australia, and features a strange little green creature whom Livy at first struggles to remember from her last visit five years before. There are mysteries afoot, prime among them, who's the little green guy? The story is astute about the fears and challenges kids face growing up, and because it's set in the Australian bush during a severe drought, it also touches on environmental themes.
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What's the story?
In BOB, when 10-year-old Livy travels to Australia to visit her grandmother for the first time in five years, she's surprised to find a little green zombie in a chicken suit living in her closet. He introduces himself as Bob, and though Livy struggles to remember him, he remembers her vividly and has been waiting for her return. Livy's a bit anxious when her mom leaves her alone at Gran's, but determines to help Bob find out where he came from and how he might return. Little by little, she recalls coming to, sopping wet in the chicken coop, but neither can remember how that might've happened. Side plots about the effect of drought on Gran's rural community, and a friendship Livy rekindles with a local girl round out the story.
Is it any good?
This emotionally resonant book has smart, snappy narration and a strong fantasy element, but also manages to read like a highly suspenseful, page-turning mystery. Bob is written in the first person, with alternating chapters by two narrators, 10-year-old Livy and Bob, the little green man who's burrowed away in her closet. Both narrators have a breezy, colloquial delivery infused with humor, making them fun to read. For instance, when Livy suggests a bath, Bob resists, saying, "It's been five years. What's another few days?"
But it's the suspense that keeps readers turning the pages. Livy's not sure she remembers Bob from her visit years ago, but memories seep back slowly. Readers are kept wondering: Who is Bob? Is he real? Can other people see him? Why does Livy sometimes forget about him? When she was little, did he save her or did she save him? Other mysteries pop up, too. Why's Livy afraid to stay at sleepovers? And what happened when she last visited her grandmother? At points, readers may fear that something seriously traumatic happened, but no worries, the challenges Livy has weathered end up being the normal bumps of growing up. The book also has imaginative illustrations by Nicholas Gannon.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mysteries in Bob. Who did you think Bob was? Did you have different theories? Did they change as you were reading? Were there other mysteries in the story you were trying to figure out?
Why do you think Livy likes having Bob as a friend? Why do you think she forgets him sometimes? Why do you think she needed him?
Do the chapters told by Bob have a different voice than the ones told by Livy? Do you think the two authors might've been responsible for writing the two different characters? Do you think it would be harder or easier to write a book with a friend?
- Authors: Wendy Mass, Rebecca Stead
- Illustrator: Nicholas Gannon
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
- Publication date: May 1, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 208
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), iBooks, Kindle
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