Matylda, Bright and Tender (Hardcover)
In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.
Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.
About the Author
Holly M. McGhee, who also writes under the pen name Hallie Durand, is the author of three picture books, including Mitchell’s License and Mitchell Goes Bowling, both illustrated by Tony Fucile, and a chapter-book series. She lives with her family, her antisocial dog, and her two leopard geckos (Speedy and Midnight) in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Sussy’s grief is authentically messy, moving from total despair to anger to confusion, both about her future and Matylda’s. . . . a thoughtful exploration of moving on after loss, and the pet-care element offers an interesting twist.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This tackles grief for the middle-grade set in much the same way as Ali Benjamin’s The Thing about Jellyfish (2015). As a simple preadolescent love story, it’s refreshing as well.
At its core, this is a sincere, tender story of friendship...Sussy’s deep sorrow hovers at the edges of each page, but McGhee (the author of Dessert First and other books, writing as Hallie Durand) handles the story’s heavy emotions with a light touch, using Sussy’s changing relationship with Matylda and a classmate to provide balance.
Both Sussy and Guy are creative, intelligent characters, and this novel is a good fit for sensitive middle grade readers...This honest and sensitive offering about grief touches on many difficult topics that, while resolved by the conclusion, may require follow-up conversations with a trusted adult.
—School Library Journal
You will cry when you read this book. But it is worth it. I enjoyed every single page. My heart is full.
This is a beautiful story told with hope and light exploring how life endures despite loss.
Matylda, Bright & Tender masterfully explores the very sad, very poignant grieving process of a child...a well-done, heartwarming, tender story, and one not to be missed.
—Randomly Reading (blog)
This slim middle grade book lives up to its name, a tale that is both bright and tender.
—Reading Style Guide (blog)