Hanlon, A. (2014). Dory Fantasmagory. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.
Dory, nicknamed Rascal by her family, is a precocious and imaginative six-year-old. She longs to play with her older brother and sister, Luke and Violet, but they want nothing to do with the “baby” of the family. And so, left to play alone, Rascal’s imagination runs wild. She plays with her best friend, Mary Monster, and asks all kinds of questions like “Why do we have armpits”. Luke and Violet desperately want Rascal to stop acting like a baby, so they invent Mrs. Gobble Gracker, a witch who steals babies, in hopes that she will be scared into “growing up”. However, Mrs. Gobble Gracker becomes another part of Rascal’s imaginary world (she thinks) and Rascal is determined to defeat this new villain. With the help of her fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy, who turns her into a dog, she is able to escape Mrs. Gobble Gracker’s notice for a while and finds that Luke has always wanted a dog and will now play with her. Rascal eventually succeeds in getting rid of Mrs. Gobble Gracker and landing in the good graces of her siblings after fishing a rainbow bouncy ball out of the toilet.
I highly recommend this book to young readers and their parents. This story could represent that of every younger sibling who yearns to play with older siblings. Hanlon does an excellent job portraying the desire of inclusion a younger sibling holds and the imagination world he or she delves into when that desire does not come to fruition. Older brothers and sisters can be so cruel in their teasing and ignoring, something Rascal deals with by imagining.
Dory Fantasmagory is perfectly written for the young reader merging into reading chapter books but still needing pictures to help visualize the author’s meaning. Hanlon, a former teacher, used her students’ drawings as inspiration and created pictures that look like the drawings of a child. The child-like appearance of the illustrations will appeal to young readers making them believe they too could draw such imaginings.
With words, pictures and pictures with words, 6-year-old Dory, called Rascal, recounts how she finally gets her older brother and sister to play with her.
Rascal’s siblings complain that she’s always pestering them. She acts like a baby, she asks weird questions, and she chatters endlessly with her imaginary monster friend. So they tell her a kidnapping witch, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, is looking for her. In her efforts to avoid capture, Rascal becomes a dog. As a “dog,” she’s invisible to the little-girl–stealer but appealing to her older brother, who, it turns out, always wanted to have a dog. She maintains her dogginess all the way through a doctor’s checkup until a surprise vaccination spurs her to speech and retaliation. Rascal and her invented fairy godmother, Mr. Nuggy (he doesn’t look much like a fairy godmother), use the ensuing timeout to concoct poison soup for the witch. Eventually, the witch is vanquished and order more or less restored. Redeemed in the eyes of her siblings because she’s brave enough to retrieve a bouncy ball from the toilet as well as wildly imaginative, Rascal finally gets her wish. Often just on the edge of out of control, this inventive child is irresistible and her voice, convincing. Childlike drawings, often embellished with hand-lettered narrative or speech bubbles, of round-headed humans, Sendak-ian monsters and a snaggle-toothed witch add to the humor.
Charming, funny and true to life. (Fiction. 6-9)
(2014, September 1). [Review of Dory Fantasmagory]. Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/abby-hanlon/dory-fantasmagory/.