Me and Marvin Gardens - Amy Sarig King
One day, he sees a creature that looks kind of like a large dog, or maybe a small boar. And as he watches it, he realizes it eats plastic. Only plastic. Water bottles, shopping bags... No one has ever seen a creature like this before, because there's never been a creature like this before. The animal--Marvin Gardens--soon becomes Obe's best friend and biggest secret. But to keep him safe from the developers and Tommy and his friends, Obe must make a decision that might change everything.
A delightful and non-didactic examination of global warming, taking care of the environment, and other similar themes. There are moments of informative dialogue and facts spouted by teachers, but they don't feel like textbook style jargon as some more thematic middle-grade texts can employ. Obe must work to keep Marvin safe and must also decide what's more important, her love for the environment or the pressure to conform to a society that feeds off a desire to continuously build and develop (I believe urban planners call it "sprawl"). There are also discussions of consent and the differences between teasing and sexual assault (in this case with the children being the enlightened individuals in the conversation).
In typical A.S. King style, there is a strong link to something concrete which is used as a beautiful extended metaphor. In this case, Monopoly plays a huge role in the novel, not only in terms of the name that Obe chooses for his new animal friend, but also in terms of the role of developers, wealth, and ethics in various communities. Obe's strong connection to his home, his community, and nature is admirable and he will likely serve as a strong role model for young readers. This novel is both a marvellous exploration of a young person's responsibility to the world around him and also a great character-driven tale of friendship and respect.
As with pretty much every novel that I have read from King, I can't help but recommend it to young readers everywhere!
*Bonus: Lots of talk about poo!
(NOTE: This review is from an Advance Reading Copy - Out Jan. 31, 2017)