Peculiar Picks are a selection of odd, funny, interesting, curious, moving, irreverent, and otherwise wonderfully awesome, but perhaps not well known, reads. Peculiar Picks are books for younger readers and their grown-ups, handpicked by the Library's Youth Services Manager, Joshua Carlson.
Lula and the Sea Monster by Alex Latimer
OverDrive & Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog
Lula and the Sea Monster is such a delightful book about friendship, along with some environmentalism. A young girl finds a small sea creature (a baby giant squid, a baby octopus, dare I say a tiny kraken?) in a pool near her home by the beach – her home which will soon be demolished to make way for a highway. She saves the creature, which she names Bean, from a seagull and begins feeding it, only for it to grow, and grow, and grow. The creature, huge, finally disappears into the sea. Then, trucks arrive to start demolition, and Lula bravely faces them, unable to stop the crew, until there is Bean to save the day and protect Lula’s home, the way she protected him! From that point forward, Lula, Bean and her family live happily along the shore.
Franklin the dragon loves books, stories and reading. He wants to read to people in town, but no one is ever around (from the illustrations you see they are hiding in fear). He tries introducing himself to a man fishing, but the man runs away. Then, Franklin meets a young girl, reading a book, named Luna, who is more excited by Franklin and their shared interests to ever be concerned about him being a dragon. When they open a wondrous bookshop for everyone to explore and enjoy, it is their friendship, and Luna’s standing up for her friend, that teaches the townsfolk to see past Franklin’s draconic exterior. For additional adventures with Franklin and Luna, check out Franklin and Luna Go to the Moon and Franklin and Luna and the Book of Fairy Tales.
Lovabye Dragon is such a charming tale of companionship as a lonely dragon seeks out a sad and lonely princess and they form a bond of unending friendship. A scene where the castle soldiers go tromping off to “rescue” the princess, yet she hides away from them with the dragon, demonstrates her understanding that the dragon is her friend, not a monster to be feared or slain – on the inside, they are the same. The muted colors and fanciful illustrations, the lovely, yet almost metronomic text and the sweet story all combine into a wonderful lullaby of a book, perfect for bedtime. Be sure to check out the further adventures of the girl and the dragon in Evermore Dragon and Sail Away Dragon.
Vampirina Ballerina OverDrive & Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog
Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover OverDrive & Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog
Vampirina at the Beach OverDrive & Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog
Vampirina in the Snow OverDrive & Libby / hoopla / Library Catalog
As a bonus, I’m including Vampirina Ballerina, and its sequels, because while they are not about a girl befriending a monster, they are about a girl who is a monster befriending non-monstrous girls. At its vampiric heart, the series is about the importance of what is inside, looking beyond someone’s appearances, disregarding stereotypes and getting to know someone. This is especially true in my favorite installment, Vampirina Ballerina Hosts a Sleepover, in which Vampirina worries about her new friends accepting who she is and goes out of her way to try to seem “normal” (like them), and ultimately, realizes that she doesn’t need to change who she is. While many people are probably most familiar with Vampirina due to the Disney Junior show, as good as the show is, I’m really disappointed with the very generic animation style that does not maintain the book series’ illustrator Pham’s style (I have the same criticism of the Fancy Nancy show). I can’t recommend enough to check out the original series of books rather than the TV show tie-ins.