Matylda, Bright and Tender by Holly M. McGhee

Hi, Holly McGhee! Welcome to Watch. Connect. Read.! I cannot believe this is the first time you’ve dropped by to celebrate books. Better late than never, eh?

Holly M. McGhee: Thank you so much for inviting me over, and yes / so much better late than never. Thank you for going first too, Mr. Schu! 

Hooray! Thank you for finishing my sentences. Let's get started! 

I wrote Matylda, Bright and Tender because it was time . . . I’d started the book in the summer of 2012, and about 25 pages in, I couldn’t continue, because I knew that one of my characters would have to go on without the other. I was completely taken with Sussy and Guy, these two charming nine year olds, and I felt a little bit tricked by my own unconscious . . . I didn’t want to face Guy’s death, because in so doing, I knew I would also have to unravel the memory and emotions around a fatal collision I was in when I first got my own license.

I wasn’t ready to do that, and I didn’t write at all for an entire year; I guess I needed the time to prepare myself to go back to an event I had pushed down for decades.

When I was finally able to tackle those memories, this story poured out of me—taking the worst thing that ever happened to me and turning it into something beautiful was transformative. It’s my hope that my readers know that when they’re ready, they can let their imaginations take them where they need to go / they can dig deep and find beauty in the very thing that made them sad / that they can fold their grief into who they are and go forward. I hope that Matylda, Bright & Tender helps my readers understand this more quickly than I did.

Visit Holly's website. 

Sussy and Guy are ultimate friends. They are in fourth grade, and they are usually found together. Sussy’s dad calls them spaghetti & meatballs. They see each other fully, both the dark and light, they roll from laughter to depth to anger to joy . . . and they accept each other completely. Theirs is the kind of friendship we all long for I think, one in which we’re loved for everything we are (good and bad).

Sometimes Holly uses the name Hallie Durand. 

Guy’s mother is the kind of mom I wish I had when I had my own car accident. Here she is, a woman who has lost her only son, and she folds Sussy in, she holds her, and by so doing, Sussy is able to think outside of herself—toward the end of the summer, when Sussy finally goes to Guy’s house, she is able to see Mrs. Hose fully, in her sorrow and her warmth and her love—and in that moment, Sussy realizes that they’ve both lost Guy. It’s a big step for Sussy.
Sometimes Holly uses the name Hallie Durand. 
Matylda helps Sussy walk through her grief and into a world that’s full of hope again. Matylda is a mythical warrior lizard, whose only wish is to have her broken heart mended by love, and in the end Sussy does just that. From his coffin, Guy extracts a promise from Sussy—to love the lizard enough for them both, and Sussy tries valiantly to do that, feeding Matylda, worrying about her health, fixating on her at all times, until eventually the situation implodes. It’s not until Sussy learns to love Matylda on her own terms (not Guy’s) that she also begins to learn to love and forgive herself.

Sometimes Holly uses the name Hallie Durand. 
Reading is where we can learn about the world between the safe covers of a book. What better way to understand ourselves, our emotions, humanity? What better place to prepare our children for life?

School libraries are among my favorite places in the world. As an introvert, I was never very good at things like the PTA. But I always volunteered in the school library; it’s a safe and cozy place for children and parents too! I’ll never forget my years checking out books for kids; I love seeing what they read . . . there was one little girl who every single week checked out a party planning book that looked like it was printed in the 1950s. It pleased me to no end for some reason. I never asked her why she kept renewing it . . . I just loved that she did! I still bring books to the librarians . . .

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about Speedy! In those first 25 pages that I put down for a year, there was no gecko at all. But during that time my son got a leopard gecko for his birthday, and I fell madly in love with Speedy. He lives in my room now, in a large vivarium. My daughter painted a back drop for the vivarium that is green and purple and pink; it’s beautiful! Speedy really likes the moist hide I made him with wet paper towels and a Tupperware container. He likes to go in there to shed. And he spent most of this winter on his little heating mat; he’s happy that spring is here finally.

Borrow Matylda, Bright and Tender from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 


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