What are next-door neighbors for? According to Matilda, they are entitled to ride your bike, barge in on your picnics and eat all the sandwiches, and even wear your favorite socks. But Libby has other ideas and wonders if Matilda is not a friend so much as a "moocher." Feeling on the losing end of this apparently one-sided relationship, Libby takes to her bed with a nondescript illness. A surprise visit to her sickroom ultimately helps Libby see Matilda in a new light. In her first outing as a writer, Bluthenthal's (Nana Hannah's Piano) breezy text expertly captures the roller-coaster dynamics of children's friendships, though many will recognize her story line as well as her illustrative style as heavily indebted to Caldecott winner Peggy Rathmann (Bootsie Barker Bites; Ruby the Copycat). While Libby's passivity repeatedly gives an oblivious Matilda the upper hand, her nonverbal tactics for dealing with a distressing situation will surely prove familiar to many readers. Bluthenthal's gouache and pen-and-ink creations feature a chipper palette and depict a smorgasbord of emotions. Her large-headed, tiny-limbed characters range from smug to anxious to laugh-out-loud happy. Backgrounds featuring cozy household furnishings and a bright classroom nicely frame the proceedings. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3Libby suspects that her friend Matilda is a moocher. She loves to ride Libby's bike, borrow her favorite socks, and she always needs to borrow a quarter at lunchtime. Libby starts avoiding the girl, going home from school "sick" so that she won't have to be Matilda's class-project partner. But when her friend visits, Libby remembers why she likes her, particularly Matilda's friendly way of making her feel better. This lighthearted story is whimsically illustrated with gouache and pen-and-ink in bright pastels that feature cartoonlike characters in a suburban setting. The varied layout keeps pace with the funny and precise text (a well-done first from an experienced illustrator), and although Matilda's mooching is never actually confronted or resolved, readers might be inclined to be as forgiving as Libby is of her friend. An easy, crowd-pleasing read-aloud.Nina Lindsay, Vista School, Albany, CA
An odd take on friendship in this brightly illustrated but unsatisfying book. Libby's next-door neighbor Matilda turns up frequently to borrow Libby's bike, horn in on Libby's picnic, and "share" school supplies. Libby grows tired of lending her a quarter for ice cream every day; when she discovers her favorite socks on Matilda, she takes action. Libby stops taking ice cream money, tells Matilda the bike has a flat tire, and has her picnics indoors, but she can't escape when Matilda is made her partner for a class project. Feigning illness, Libby goes home to brood. Matilda comes over with a homemade get-well card and cupcakes, but also wearing Libby's hat—reform is far away. The gouache and pen-and-ink illustrations are lively, but Matilda is such an obnoxious character that one wonders why some convenient adult doesn't just smack her one and get her to mend her ways, or why Libby doesn't light into her—a couple of cupcakes can't account for everything. Children faced with moochers of their own will find only a modicum of consolation here.