It’s been a long while since I’ve written a proper blog post, I know. And it’s not that I don’t have plenty of ideas for posts. I do — a couple of them actually valuable — but what can I say? Life “stuff” can do that. I’m also not a book reviewer, so let’s not confuse this post about a book with an actual review. This is different. This is more.
For a very long time my sleep — mostly the lack of — has been an issue, last night being no different. I didn’t fall asleep till after midnight, then woke up about 4 a.m. to a pillow that shunned me no matter how much I tried to re-bond with it. By 4:30 the sun and birds were starting their day so I thought it best to join them. Today was a week, to the day, since I began reading my library copy of Matylda, Bright & Tender, knowing it was a book I would own and have signed by its author, Holly M. McGhee, just two days later. With my treasured copy in hand, over last weekend I read midway through, then that incessant pest, Life Stuff, showed up again.
So here I was, the clock closing in on 5 a.m. and not feeling as groggy as I would expect, the unusually early morning became a gift. I only needed to decide what to unwrap first. Choosing took all of a few seconds. To go along with my steamy morning cup of “Newman’s Own” Organics Special Blend coffee, what better gift than a good book for breakfast? I thought I’d get in about 50 or so page “bites” and leave the rest for later, but the story was so scrumptious, gluttonous me kept gobbling. Many tears and several tissues later, having ingested every wordy crumb, I closed its cover, pushed my full belly from the table, my literary appetite more than satisfied.
I first became aware of Matylda, Bright & Tender through Kathy Temean’s blog. While reading the beautiful post written by Holly herself about the book’s “journey,” I cried and knew it would be a tear-jerking read — because a character dies. I knew I wanted to experience this book — really wanted to. And when I saw Holly, I told her (and author Beth Ferry) I love books that move me enough to cry. In fact, not since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and One for the Murphys have I been this emotional while reading. Why? Not just because of the quality of the writing, but because the writers made me care about the characters and their journeys. Because the main character, Sussy, and her story hit home.
At the age of sixteen I, too, suffered tragic loss, that of an ex-boyfriend. And similar to Holly, I felt partly responsible, though indirectly. For a time I played the “woulda coulda shoulda” game, saying “if only I hadn’t…” Ultimately I did realize it had nothing to do with me, but these things happen in life. This is reality. We live in a world rife with tragedy and death, whether by accident or intent. It’s a sorry reality in which children — and adults — need to face these things and learn how to cope. A book like this can be a key to open the often-closed door for discussion of this difficult topic, whether at home or school or — anywhere. And just because the book is written through a young girl’s eyes, the subject matter knows no age boundaries, whether you’ve experienced loss or not. Obviously, I’m not a child and this book now resides on my “books best loved” shelf.
Having had the good fortune to meet Holly through the NJSCBWI, and the pleasure and honor to consider her a friend, I can tell you there are many things to love and appreciate about Holly McGhee. As a person she is warm, genuine and delightful. As a literary agent, she helps bring to the world some of the best author and illustrator talent in children’s literature. And as an author she not only brings to us her talent, but her willingness to address the difficult subjects. She does the same in her upcoming picture book Come With Me, a book Mr. Colby Sharp “will be sharing with his students for the rest of his career,” set for release Sept. 5, 2017, written…
“Because as small as it may seem,
your part matters to the world.”
—Holly M. McGhee
Holly, I am glad that writing Matylda, Bright & Tender was a cathartic endeavor for you 🙂 . Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for the beauty of this book oxox
Have you read books that have deeply moved you? I’d love to hear what they are! And I’m sure Holly would enjoy any comments from you about her and her work 🙂
Where to find Holly: