ARC review: Elves on the Fifth Floor, by Francesca Cavallo, illustrated by Verena Wugeditsch

I read this book in the hottest days of the year, and it’s a weird weather to be reading about Christmas elves, as we were all melting from the heat here in Ireland… I was thinking of the people in the southern hemisphere who’re experiencing winter right now, and I do envy them quite a bit. The heatwave did not stop me from enjoying this, though!

I’m quite sad that I couldn’t find a bigger picture of the cover, it’s very cute!

The story

From New York Times Bestselling Author of “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”

In the city of R., nothing bad ever happens—which makes it a perfect destination for moms Isabella and Dominique, and their three children, Manuel, Camila, and Shonda, when they’re forced to flee their home country just before Christmas to keep their family together.

Crammed into a tiny apartment at 10 Roomy Chimneys Road, the family does its best to make friends with new neighbors—only to discover that the reason that nothing bad ever happens in R. is that its residents maintain the status quo at all costs. They don’t try anything new. They don’t take risks. And they never talk to strangers.

But the children of R. have had enough. Led by a young inventor, they’ve started a clandestine radio network to communicate freely and challenge the adults’ rules. Their rebellion starts Manuel, Camila and Shonda on a magical adventure— to save Christmas, and to bring community back to the city of R. 

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was given a copy by Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

I don’t often read children’s books, mostly because as a childless adult I feel like this is not really my wheelhouse. I do however love to see diverse books for all ages, and I love a good picture book. So when I saw this on Netgalley, under LGBTQIA, I had to grab it.

It turned out to be for a younger audience than I was expecting, on the lower end of Middle Grade, so that’s something to think about if you’re going to get it as a gift.

We’re following a queer family who had to flee their country due to homophobia, and I appreciate that the author is being very honest about this while also obviously staying appropriate. These are discussions that we can and should have with kids. The anonymity of the city of R. also works very well to tell this kind of stories, too, I think. It could be anywhere.

What I did not see coming was that the police would be involved in this story, I mean from the blurb it was innocent enough, but the moms do get, if not arrested, then escorted to the police station in the back of a car, which… was not explicitly violent, but I suppose as an adult with an understanding of current events it hits as violent.

The story itself is cute other than this particular point, and the children – especially Olivia, with her inventions – are relatable and fun. Not to mention it’s great to see queer families in kids’ books – here with children who have two moms (and others who have two dads, monoparental families, etc). The illustrations are adorable throughout, I actually really liked the inclusion of two-tone illustrations in red and green (and black) as well as the full colour ones. It’s a lovely and very short read for young children.

The Links

Preorder it in time for Christmas!

Barnes & Noble | Amazon

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