Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes

Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes
Review copy from Chronicle Books
Brave Molly is an almost wordless picture book with depth. The endpapers show hands sketching a series of menacing creatures, while the title page shows a girl perched in a window seat with a book in a room with cheerful yellow walls, interesting books and toys on shelves and artwork by Molly tacked on the walls. As the story begins, the view shifts to the outside world, with readers seeing Molly in her window looking out at three children passing by. Back inside the house, Molly looks out the window, the creature from her drawings standing next to the children, now sitting on a bench in front of Molly's house, reading. It is immediately clear to readers what keeps Molly in her house, especially when a scan of this two page spread shows readers a desk with the drawings of the creature on it. This is Molly's creature, Molly's dark, difficult feeling. Maybe it is fear? Fear of meeting new people? Fear of connection?Fear of rejection? The beauty of Brave Molly being a wordless picture book is that the readers can personalize the story.
Molly crumples up her drawing of the dark creature and heads outside, but the creature standing between her and the bench where the kids are reading keeps her from connecting with them, despite the fact that the boy waves at her. As the children walk away, Molly sees that the boy forgot his book. She picks it up and walks off after them, the dark creature following despite her efforts to escape it. In fact, the dark creature multiplies as Molly tries to avoid it.
Finally, frustrated, Molly stops, gathers herself, then turns to face her feelings. With confidence and force, she confronts them. With an (almost) clean slate/white page, she looks relieved, happy. She resumes her quest to return the left behind book, realizing that the dark creature has returned. Despite this, Molly continues on, finding the courage to wave at the boy and say, "Hi," as she hands him his book, the dark creature leaning over her. A page turn shows the boy smiling as he takes his book from Molly's hand, and the final pages show the pair on their stomachs, reading the book together.

Boynton-Hughes uses a pale palette for her illustrations, taking the edge off the dark creature just a bit. Molly's red hoodie stands out among the backgrounds, at times seeming like a symbol of her courage. Young readers will connect with Molly and her story instantly, imbuing her experience with their own.

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