Sussy introduces readers to her best friend, Guy, as he valiantly runs to her house to retrieve her jacket on a cool fall morning, even if it means missing the bus. Four years later, when they are both 10 years old, their friendship still endures. They decide to adopt a leopard gecko and name her Matylda. It’s Guy who knows all about lizards and how to feed them live crickets. It’s Guy who is kind, inquisitive and thoughtful and by whom Matylda feels most understood. And so, when a freak bicycle accident takes his life, the readers, as much as Sussy, are devastated by the loss. Guy always put Sussy first, and now Sussy is trying her best to take care of Matylda while grieving the one person she cared for most —an incredible task for any child.
Matylda, Bright & Tender is a heartbreaking story about loss and grief narrated by Sussy with childlike honesty and openness. Sussy’s response to her grief is to funnel her anger and guilt over Guy’s death into the care of this lizard, which consumes her. Although Guy’s accident is neither graphic nor drawn-out, parents will want to read this book along with their child to aid discussion and to respond to questions about life and death.
This is a beautiful story told with hope and light exploring how life endures despite loss.
Kimberly Giarratano is the author of Grunge Gods and Graveyards, a young adult paranormal mystery.