Sophie, a 10-year-old with a facial birthmark, sees monsters everywhere she looks—including in the mirror.
Sophie has a hemangioma, a textured birthmark across her face. A frequent victim of bullying, Sophie hides from the world behind sunglasses or her hair. Her mother moves them both from the Portland, Oregon, suburbs to the city, where she hopes specialists will be able to surgically remove Sophie’s birthmark and Sophie can get a fresh start at a new school. The fresh start works, a little. Sophie makes her first friend, a bubbly girl named Autumn. But Sophie’s demons are all too real. Constantly reading her Big Book of Monsters (which mixes monsters and figures from various world cosmologies), Sophie sees creatures everywhere. Most are dangerous but not all: Autumn is obviously a fairy, while Autumn’s Irish herbalist grandmother is a kindly witch. Sophie decides to remove the curse she’s sure has afflicted her, finding ingredients for a magical cure all over Portland while identifying “the ghost of a Native American princess” and “an old Native American man” in passers-by and deciding they’re her magical helpers. The message—that true beauty comes from the inside—is worthy but unremarkable and is ultimately undermined by tired disability tropes. The mishmash of monstrosity and magic with world religions is as unfortunate as the placement of generic Native characters in the service of this white girl; that she has a Latina doctor would be nice except that the highly atypical spelling of her doctor’s surname (“Escabar”) will likely throw Latinx readers.
Skip. (Fiction. 9-11)