A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Littlest Bigfoot is the first in a trilogy -- and it's the first children's book debut by Jennifer Weiner, best known for far more adult fare (Good in Bed). This gentle novel is a light fantasy about the kinship between two girls who feel like outcasts in their families: One is a girl in the human world, and the other is designated to lead her secretive Bigfoot tribe one day. Bullies take a photo of a girl naked and broadcast it -- on paper and online -- to humiliate her. A child defies her family's fundamental rules for safety and puts herself and her community in danger. A rowdy crowd that has gathered to track down a Bigfoot includes adults drinking beer, some of whom get rough with a child in a wheelchair.
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What's the story?
THE LITTLEST BIGFOOT is Millie, a child in the Yare tribe hidden in a New York forest. The tribe survives by being secret and silent, but Millie -- an aspiring singer -- is desperate to be part of the No-Furs' world. Her curiosity leads her closer and closer to the Experimental Center for Love and Learning. Alice, a new student at the school, feels rejected by her parents and her peers for both her physical appearance and her personality. When Alice rescues Millie from the lake, the girls quickly bond. Millie defies her family to pursue a friendship with Alice, who is grateful and touched by her first real friend. But their secret rendezvous draw the attention of dogged Bigfoot-hunters -- and threaten the Yare tribe's very existence.
Is it any good?
In her first children's book, Jennifer Weiner sensitively explores the painfully self-conscious tween years through the eyes of three children who feel friendless and unwelcome in their own families. The Littlest Bigfoot shines brightest when Weiner describes her characters' acute loneliness and misery and the inner strengths they've cultivated to cope. But the plot revs up slowly -- the girls don't meet until the halfway point, and Jeremy's story is shoehorned in to prop up a storyline.
This is more a friendship tale than a fantasy, as the Yare aren't much unlike humans -- and that's the point. The core of the story is its strong message about respecting people who seem different and appreciating that they have strengths and struggles unseen by you. The rousing themes of self-worth and appreciating differences are slightly undermined by the smirking portrayal of adults at the experimental school, who are the only adults to embrace Alice and Mille with unquestioning support.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the humiliating photo of Alice circulated by her classmates in The Littlest Bigfoot. What would be the reaction if an incident like that occurred at your school? Do you use -- or know kids who use -- social media like Snapchat?
Jeremy and Jo both say, "On the Internet, everything lives forever." Do you keep this in mind when you're online? How do you protect your privacy?
Would this story work if Millie were just a human girl with a health condition who lived in an isolated community?
- Author: Jennifer Weiner
- Genre: Friendship
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Middle School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Aladdin
- Publication date: September 13, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 304
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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