Melvina Whitmoore (More or Less a Horror Story)

HarperCollins. Sept. 2023. 40p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063247826.
Gr 2-4–Timid, petite Melvina Whitmoore is an elderly white woman who is living in fear of noises, dirt, monsters, and sometimes even her own shadow. So she does what any upper class older person might do: she buys a new house and hopes it will offer her the safety and security that has eluded her. Of course, it doesn’t, and Capalia’s debut playfully brings this conundrum to life through the story. The pacing is marked by a bit of suspense and highlights the way Melvina experiences the fear and confusion that accompany her first encounter with the new house’s terrors. Appealing digital illustrations include gleeful details in the depiction of the original sources of Melvina’s frights, while white lines on black backgrounds enhance the surreal appearance of the interior of the new house. Eventually the protagonist is confronted with an invitation to join the housewarming party thrown in her new home by her well-intentioned neighbors: a warm and welcoming crew of beasts, ghouls, and monsters. The narration emphasizes that safety is not always found where it is expected and, in this case, Melvina finds the comfort she craves within the community of strangers who become her friends. The illustrations draw readers in from the opening endpapers, while the secondary palette masterfully emphasizes Halloween-adjacent themes of trepidation and delight. The final endpapers add closure and contrast for visual readers.
VERDICT Collections looking for eccentric SEL-themed picture books exploring topics of safety, fear, change, and risk-taking may wish to add this one.

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