Lenny & Lucy

Book review by
Jan Carr, Common Sense Media
Lenny & Lucy Book Poster Image
Masterful book about moving is emotionally powerful.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Ideas about how to deal concretely with fears. A model of how to make guardian figures out of what's at hand, in this case pillows, blankets, and leaves.

Positive Messages

When you feel fear, you can figure out ways to comfort and protect yourself. When you have to move and leave friends, new friends present themselves. New places might feel scary at first, but then they become familiar and homey.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter deals actively and concretely with his fears. He tries to identify them and address them creatively. The actions he takes, and what he imagines, comfort him. He's sensitive to others, and when he imagines that Lenny's lonely, he builds him a friend. Peter's open to new friendship and to accepting his new life. The neighbor girl, Millie, freely offers friendship, sharing her binoculars and marshmallows. Her mother's also welcoming to new neighbors.

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Lenny & Lucy, by the Caldecott-winning team of Philip C. and Erin E. Stead (A Sick Day for Amos McGee), is a beautifully artful book about a boy (Peter) and his dad who've just moved. Much of the story, including the specifics of Peter's fears, is gently implied rather than spelled out. We see the family arrive in their packed-up car, and Peter can't sleep when his fears about his new home focus on the dark woods nearby. Peter builds two figures out of blankets to guard the house and comfort himself. These provide a helpful model for readers and a reminder for parents to deal with kids' fears seriously and concretely. The art, in a hushed, calming palette, is as gently reassuring as the story and pictures a single dad and neighbors of color who welcome and befriend Peter's family.

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What's the story?

In LENNY & LUCY, a family -- a boy, a dad, and a dog -- move into a new home. The boy, Peter, doesn't like the new house and can't sleep at night, afraid of the dark woods just on the other side of the wooden bridge. He makes a guardian figure out of pillows and blankets, "Lenny" of the title, to sit at the edge of the bridge "and keep the dark woods on the other side where they belong." When Lenny's lonely (as Peter clearly is), Peter makes him a companion, Lucy. Then a neighbor girl comes over to play, and the girl's mother offers housewarming treats to the dad. Lenny and Lucy continue to guard the bridge, but now Peter's found a new friend.

Is it any good?

Caldecott winners Philip C. and Erin. E. Stead have collaborated on another masterful, quietly powerful story with a classic feel, this one about moving and fear of the unknown. Adults will understand that Peter is projecting his fears about moving onto the dark, unknown woods, but the story wisely takes his fear literally and pictures him working concretely to protect and comfort himself. There's a quiet reassurance in the guardian figures coming to life and playing with Peter and his dog, and the introduction of the new friend and neighbor is just as gentle and understated. An added plus: The book is implicitly inclusive. Peter's family is pictured as single-parent, headed by a dad, and the neighbors who welcome and befriend them are a family of color.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about moving. Have you ever had to move? How did you feel about your new home? Did it feel more familiar over time?

  • What parts of the story do you see in the art that aren't spelled out in the text?

  • Are you afraid of the dark, like Peter? He builds Lenny and Lucy to protect him. What helps you feel less afraid?

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