Lulu is a beaver who secretly wishes to be an artist. Narrated in third person, the story follows Lulu as her friends try to give her the self-confidence to pursue her dreams. Despite her friends’ encouragement, Lulu’s struggle with fear and self-doubt has led her into a pattern of destroying her artwork — until an unexpected encounter changes Lulu, and the forest, for good. With funny asides, sound effects, and elements of comic-book style, Bethany Gano’s debut, eye-opening tale urges kids to confront gloomy thinking — and gives them the courage to bravely share their gifts.
The idea of feeling trapped in an identity—that people (or animals, in Lulu and her friends’ cases) are boxed in by others’ expectations—is a complicated subject to tackle, but Gano handles it deftly, allowing Lulu a leisurely route to self-acceptance while providing supportive friends who help her along the way. The book finds its footing in the message that self-doubt is normal, able to be resolved with a little dose of hope combined with a can-do attitude, and Gano manages a lighthearted, fun tone throughout, with kid-friendly examples like Buttercup and Oscar, two fish who like to play soccer.
Gano’s illustrations, crafted with a variety of media and photographed textures, create a rich and imaginative backdrop to Lulu’s journey, perfectly suited to her artistic and expressive inner world. Rhyming text shimmies its way into the narrative when Lulu slides into la-la land, a small but moving detail that lends the work an appealing sparkle. Gano treats her audience with respect, allowing room for their intuition to guide the story’s lessons, and younger readers plagued by self-doubt—as well as those who are decisively creative—will find this path to confidence and daring to live your wildest dreams encouraging.
Takeaway: This endearing tale of a timid beaver drives home the power of self-acceptance.
Great for fans of: David Shannon’s A Bad Case of Stripes; Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Spoon.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A