Hello, friends! Our book today is Lilly Lou Makes A Friend, written by Mike Murphy and illustrated by Jonathan Hoefer, a story of a very unusual visitor.
Lilly Lou lives on a small farm in Missouri, with her mother and father (Mr. & Mrs. Lou) and their collection of animals. One night, a mysterious craft crashes onto their farm, and a strange creature emerges! Moozy Toozy is a young panda-like animal from the planet Mooz, who has gotten lost and crashed while racing ships with his brother. Now the friendly alien asks for help in finding both his family and a way home. What are the Lous to do?
So first off, while this appears to be a picture book, it’s actually an early chapter book with the odd full-page spread illustration sprinkled between. The story is light for the most part, but struggles to find a consistent pace or tone – part lighthearted, fish-out-of-water sci-fi, part friendship tale, part travel-guide to New York City, each section moves along too briskly to get a firm hold of just what is trying to be conveyed. This is particularly noticeable in the NYC landmark paragraphs, which madly dumps a load of information on the sites such as the Statue of Library, Plaza Hotel, etc., as quickly as possible, then moves on too swiftly to absorb it (not helping is the information chosen, which is often bland dates, statistics, or references that children surely will not get – exactly how many early readers have seen the movie The Way We Were?). Perhaps most bothering are moments which are simply tonedeaf and inappropriate for young readers, such as when the mistreatment of horses in Central Park is discussed – even illustrated – then left without resolution, or another startling sequence that involves the Lou family and company literally being held at gunpoint by police. JJ was quickly bored with the matter-of-fact delivery of story and dialogue, and while the illustrations are certainly original, there is little they could do to distract from the book’s shortcomings. This one simply was not for us.
(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)