In Corral’s gentle debut novel, 7-year-old Olivia moves to a rambling old house with her writer dad and discovers to her delight that a secret attic room is inhabited by a shy, lonely, cookie-loving monster with a secret: He’s a writer, too.
Motherless Olivia and her dad leave the city for an aging, three-story house out in the country, where her father can write in peace. Olivia is excited but a bit anxious. When she hears a strange noise, Dad offers teasing reassurance that if it’s a monster, Olivia needn’t worry because monsters bring good luck. So, far from being frightened by her discovery of Burrufu, a soft and furry giant living in a secret room under the roof, Olivia is overjoyed. Yet Burrufu’s experiences with people have made him gruff and wary. It seems that fearful reactions to the sight of him cause Burrufu to automatically multiply in size, with predictable results. The monster yearns for his lonely but quiet life with his old typewriter and the stories he writes, but he soon succumbs to Olivia’s ready affection and wholehearted acceptance. Olivia’s hugs and homemade cookies bring Burrufu out of his shell and, after the monster’s involuntary public appearance leads to a bit of sketchy King Kong-meets-military melodrama, the story ends in a satisfying Peter Pan-like coda. Corral, a character animator for DreamWorks Animation, is a lively storyteller, although he occasionally stumbles over head-scratching non sequiturs: Olivia is “a very sharp and silly girl.” Dad’s editor is a “kind and grateful person,” who nonetheless has an eye out “to take advantage of everything” because “he really liked money.” The book shines, however, in Corral’s depiction of Olivia’s exuberance and Burrufu’s deep layers: a touch of melancholy, a tender heart and a resigned understanding that the larger world will never “see past what I look like.” Sorrentino’s expert and endearing illustrations capture the book’s emotional intent.
Could use a final polishing, but the tale shines with lively prose and engaging illustrations.