There’s a new kid on the block: Shy Shelly!
I received a copy of OMF Lit’s new chapter book, “The Secret Story of Shy Shelly,” written by Justine Hail and illustrated by Elbert Or and I think it’s a wonderful addition to the local kidlit scene, especially for the 7-10 age group.
The titular character is Shelly, a painfully shy girl whose only wish is to have a real friend. As Shelly enters third grade at Claustro Field Academy, some girls in class reach out and befriend her, and Shelly begins to learn the true meaning of friendship: that to have a real friend, she must be a real friend, too.
Justine Hail has written an empathetic character in Shelly — I think most kids can relate to shyness in some form, as well as the constant worry about fitting in. I like the way the story is paced, with real-life scenarios that gradually draw Shelly out of her shell. I also like how the story enforces the values of friendship and compassion without being preachy.
Elbert Or’s illustrations are delightfully cute, and make the book more accessible for reluctant readers. Plus, they add extra layers of fun to the story with little activities (how to make paper stars, a strawberry cupcake recipe) that extend the reading experience beyond the book.
I especially love the infographic about turtles, haha — I can now tell a turtle apart from a tortoise!
This book is marked as the first volume in a series, which means we’ll be reading more of Shelly’s adventures later on. While I enjoyed reading this book, I do have a few concerns that I hope the next books will be able to address.
The physical book is predominantly pink, which may alienate boy readers, or even girl readers who aren’t into pink. Despite the predominantly female cast (and maybe the series really is written for girls), I don’t see why boy readers wouldn’t enjoy this story, and I do hope they pick it up, too.
Also, for a chapter book, I find the typeface and leading too small for the target audience. The current release is ebook, though, which makes the font and leading adjustable (because ebooks are awesome like that), but I do hope the final print copy (this one is a limited print) sees an adjustment.
Finally (and I note the reference to a sari-sari store in one of the chapters) I hope the succeeding books establish the Philippine setting some more, and that the characters sound more like Filipino kids. I think this would give the series more cultural identity, and allow young Filipino readers to relate even more to the characters.
That said, I think this series has a lot of potential, especially for a segment of the kidlit market that’s wide open for more titles. I’m looking forward to reading more of Shelly’s adventures in the next books, and pretty please, can we get a story featuring Huey Louie?!?
P.S. Thank you, Justine Hail for the inscription. I used to watch you on 5 and Up! :p
Elbert, this needs your signature.
The Secret Story of Shy Shelly, paperback, 4/5 stars.
Review copy courtesy of OMF Lit.
Currently available as an ebook on Kobo, Barnes and Noble, FlipReads, ibooks, Buqo, Amazon and Google Play.