Each of us knows well the person we imagine ourselves to be. I’m guessing that this imaginary person has changed shape and identity throughout your life. As a child, do you remember your secret identity? Mine was a fearless superhero version of myself, because fearless I was not.
If Richard Torrey had known that, he surely would have drawn me a cape and mystical armbands and a tiny crown with his talented, perceptive vision and his oil-based pencils.
In his follow-up story after 2015’s Ally-Saurus & the First Day of School, Ally and her imaginary Ally-saurus self return for a story about believing in one’s self and standing up for one’s beliefs. Ally, her neighborhood friend Kai, and her toddler brother, Petey, have a great time playing together with their imaginary selves: a dinosaur, a famous tap dancer, and a bear. When a new girl moves in, she’s quick to take control. Maddie wants to make the rules. She decides they will play monsters. As kids will, Ally and Kai quickly adapt by making themselves over as a dinosaur monster and a tap-dancing monster. But that’s not enough for Maddie. She creates layers of rules so they can only play as she wishes them to play. When Maddie takes Petey’s teddy bear away, it’s the last straw for Ally. She stands up to Queen Maddie in a spectacular way.
The illustrations in this book are integral to the story. With dark brown line drawings, colored with a soft palette of green, orange, and brown, this is a warm book, even when Maddie is particularly bossy.
Mr. Torrey uses a sketchy, colored line around each child (except Petey) to show us their imaginary selves. He is very clever at using those same lines to show us how the children’s play surrounds them. Petey might be too young to have an imaginary self. He and Bear seem to be the same persona. I’d like to think this is the author’s way of telling us that toddlers live in a place of imagination … they’re not yet pretending.
This is a story with a message that’s told in a satisfying, integrated way. It’s a story about an all-too common situation among children at play. And it’s a story that offers encouragement to STAND UP. You’ll want this on your bookshelf. It’s a story worthy of re-reading. And the illustrations are quirky and enchanting.
Ally-saurus & the Very Bossy Monster
written and illustrated by Richard Torrey
published by Sterling Children’s Books, 2017