Review Detail

Kids Fiction 704
light-hearted fantasy middle grade read
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
STUFFED follows Clark and Foon. Clark is a boy who loves stuffed animals and feels that they keep him safe. However, his mother is pushing him to move away from them and find more "manly" hobbies like baseball. He is also bullied at school, and this centers around his stuffed animals, but really seems to be about power plays (as most bullying is).

Clark's dad receives a box of things from his childhood, which begins his mood spiral into a depression (not specifically defined as such but hinted at strongly). At the same time, Clark feels like he can see a cloudy shape around his father which may be a monster. This is later confirmed by a new friend, who explains the powers of Stuffies and how they can be scored to build up a real army.

Clark becomes more entrenched in this idea and how stuffed animals can help protect his father. The overall story is split every so often with scenes from the perspective of Foon, a stuffed animal that we really meet later. The book also contains some how-to instructions for making simple stuffies in places.

What I loved: This book is really innovative in how it empowers children to be who they are (even if they are a boy who is growing up and loving stuffed animals). The story is quite clever too, in terms of what stuffed animals do and how they fight monsters.

What left me wanting more: I felt like this book could have been something much bigger and deeper than it was. Essentially, the father has depression, but instead of therapy and help, we have stuffed animals fighting the monster that is getting him down. The power of the book to address mental illness is really lessened. There are also some tidbits about his grandmother having cancer, which also could have deepened the story, but they also felt a bit glossed over. This book straddled the line between more serious and more fun, and I would have liked it more if it was one or the other, particularly for the middle grade audience. I also wish his mother had been more supportive and appreciated Clark for being himself. However, we do get the more supportive figures from other teens.

Final verdict: This book is overall cute fun giving stuffed animals a new purpose. While it could have been a much deeper story, it manages to stay pretty light and focus on stuffed animals vs. monster style plots. I would recommend for children who love stuffed animals and fantasy.
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