Dory and the Real True Friend
By Abby Hanlon
Out July 7, 2015
Why review a particular book? I was asked this recently and my answer was pretty simple: I like to review books I’m excited about. I was exited about Abby Hanlon’s Dory Fantasmagory last year (it made our Top 20 Books of 2014 list), and I’m just as excited about this follow-up, Dory and the Real True Friend. It’s funny, it’s real, it’s a wonderfully effervescent little early chapter book in a category often filled with formula-following series.
The first day of school is coming. This is a problem for Dory, who prefers pajamas to school clothes and her imaginary friend Mary to real life companionship. But this year could be different. At school she meets Rosabelle, who just might be a real princess. As Dory is figuring out how to make a real true friend, the evil Mrs. Gobble Gracker has kidnapped her fairy godmother (Mr. Nuggy) leaving Dory to figure out a rescue plan. Rosabelle is up for the challenge, and the pair work together to save Mr. Nuggy and send Mrs. Gobble Gracker packing.
Humor is hard. Hanlon knows humor for this audience. Her ability to pepper the story with off-the-wall characteristics, wonderfully absurd dialog, and general silliness is as keen as anyone. Take this interaction between Dory and her fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy:
“I’m scared about school,” I say. “I don’t want to go. You’ve got to help me. What can you do? Can you use your magic wand to make it go away?”
“Don’t worry.” he says. “I have a plan. I’m going to do some magic and turn your whole school into a pancake, so you won’t have to go, ever.”
This is punctuated by a picture of the school replaced with a massive buttered hotcake. Young readers will be cracking up.
The effect of all this is a book full of spontaneity – you never know what will happen next and are completely engaged because of it. In her interview at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Hanlon describes being inspired by her own young children (occasionally eavesdropping with pen and pad for dictation purposes), capturing the quirky truth of childhood. This authenticity shows, and the book is more hilarious because of it.
Hanlon’s black and white pencil illustrations are integral to the story. Often used to assist with a punchline or show Dory’s robust imagination, they have the right mix of cute and quirky to suit a main character nicknamed “Rascal”.
Dory and the Real True Friend is a sequel that lives up to, and wonderfully expands the world of the original. It’s genius. I (and a whole lot of kids) are excited for more.