Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King
Summary from Goodreads:
Obe Devlin has problems. His family’s farmland has been taken over by developers. His best friend Tommy abandoned him for the development kids. And he keeps getting nosebleeds, because of that thing he doesn’t like to talk about. So Obe hangs out at the creek by his house, in the last wild patch left, picking up litter and looking for animal tracks.
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.
I initially picked up this book because it seems to be getting some early Newbery buzz. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I ended up loving it. The story is a little bit strange, and I’m not sure what genre to place it into, but I think kids will really enjoy it.
Obe is a delightful and realistic tween. He has many struggles in his life, but he is pretty honest and hopeful that they will all sort themselves out. I loved that he struggles with nose bleeds, but that just sort of becomes a fact of life for him. The thing I like most about him though is that he acts, talks and thinks like a kid. He has lots of doubts about things, but he is pretty confident in himself. I also like the scene when he first finds Marvin, he is both terrified of him but genuinely curious about him. I also appreciate that he eventually goes to adults to him solve the problem of what to do about Marvin, and its not his parents that he trusts with it, but a teacher.
His friend Annie, was also a very realistic tween. She is really supportive of Obe and is on her way to be a good friend to him. She is also a little bit of a rebel, which I like in a character. She is aware that she is breaking rules, but she tries hard not to.
Marvin is a wonderful creation, wouldn’t it be great if there was such a creature! I find it amusing that he is friendly too, not what you expect from a wild animal. Many of Obe’s and Marvin’s scenes made me smile. Even though he is slimy and smelly, I would be drawn to wanting to save him too.
The adults around Obe are not as well fleshed out as the kids and Marvin, but I think that is ok. They are still there and important to the story. I especially liked the Obe heard many of his dad’s lectures as “Blah, blah, blah…” which is how I think many kids hear there parents.
There is an environmental message in this book, but it is not heavy handed. It is given from a child’s perspective and it is wonderfully done.
Overall a wonderful book, with great characters and an important message.