Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon (or, How I Tricked Maxwell into Reading a Book, Part 2)

Mar 30, 2016

Okay, so before you all think that I'm some extremely controlling mother who monitors every single word my children read, let me just defend myself by saying this: I am totally fine with letting my kids choose (some of) their own books. However, the library can be a very overwhelming place (I know that all too well myself), so if they don't have some sort of plan going in, they end up coming home with stuff that just sits untouched in the library basket because they weren't actually interested in reading it--they just wanted to choose something.

So, meanwhile, I choose my own books for them and then place them strategically around the house or make rather blatant suggestions. Sometimes it works, but, more often than I'd like to admit, it doesn't, and then I'm left with books like Dory Fantasmagory hanging out at our house for weeks until we finally use up all our library renewals and have to take them back.

After I read Dory and the Real True Friend for the Cybils, I went back and checked out the first one because I'd found the second one so funny and delightful. I thought for sure it was a book Max would like. So every time he was looking for something new to read, I'd say, "How about Dory?" You can imagine that it didn't take very many times before that got really old, like, "Really, Mom? Do you only have one book you can recommend?"

Finally, with it's due date looming, I decided to just read it myself. I was in between books at the time, waiting for some of my holds to come in at the library, and even if all my kids were rejecting Dory, that didn't mean I had to.

Within just a few pages, I was laughing . . . like, really laughing, out loud. I couldn't help myself. Dory's imagination is just too amazing. She's the youngest in her family and regularly gets left out of Violet and Luke's games. She usually doesn't mind because she has Mary, her imaginary monster, to play with, but sometimes she just really wants to be included. One day, in another attempt to get her to stop acting like a baby, Luke and Violet tell Dory about Mrs. Gobble Gracker, who is five hundred and seven years old and loves to steal baby girls. In fact, she's actually been looking for Dory.

Instead of being frightened into acting more mature, Dory is fascinated. Her head is buzzing with questions about Mrs. Gobble Gracker, and pretty soon, she is off on an adventure to defeat this evil opponent.

A couple of night after finishing it, the boys were getting ready to go to bed. We had just finished a chapter of Rascal, and Aaron and Max were trying to decide what they should each read in bed.

I decided to make one final attempt . . .

"So, I just read Dory, and it was so funny. I seriously could not stop laughing. Maybe you should try it."

"Really?" Max said suspiciously. "Why was it so funny?"

"Yeah," said Bradley. "Tell us about one of the funny parts."

"Okay," I said. And so I told them about the part where Dory goes to the doctor for a check-up, but she's disguised as a dog because she's trying to outsmart Mrs. Gobble Gracker. Her mom is trying to get her out the door so they'll make their appointment on time. She's saying things like, "Dory, did you hear me say we are in a rush??? We have an appointment. We can't be late." But Dory says, "it just doesn't mean anything to me, because I'm a dog!" At the doctor's, Dory answers all of the questions with "woof-woof!" and Dory's mother is so embarrassed. And, as if that isn't enough, Dory gives the doctor a "shot" at the end by jabbing her sucker stick into the doctor's thigh."

My kids laughed and laughed at this retelling, and then Bradley said, "Please just read the first chapter?"

And so I did. And then my biggest problem was not trying to get them to read the rest of it but breaking up the fight between Max and Aaron because they both wanted to take it to bed with them.

I ended up reading the rest of the book to Bradley the next day, the last two chapters of which were in the car on our way to our family's cabin. Mike kept chuckling, but when we got to the part where Dory keeps getting out of bed because her imagination has gotten away from her and she thinks Mrs. Gobble Gracker is actually real, Mike and I were dying. Our kids looked at us like we were crazy because we were laughing like maniacs in the front seat. (Actually, we were laughing as only parents who have experienced the exact same scenario can laugh, right down to the part where Dory's father says, "Stay. In. Bed! Because it's not safe for you to come out." And then Dory hears him laugh a tiny bit as he closes the door.)

Besides her brilliant imagination, I also just love Dory's story for its honest, candid look at family life. Dory's parents get frustrated (her mom has a little breakdown when she finds Dory's giant fort in the living room); Violet and Luke are jerks (they ignore Dory, call her names, and tattle on her). If it only showed the tension and bickering, I wouldn't have liked it at all. But, just like in a real family, there are some really sweet moments too, and those counterbalance the others and make everything more meaningful and realistic. Her family has a strong foundation of love and friendship, even if the day-to-day moments don't always reflect that super well.

So my ploy worked. I've made Dory converts out of every single person in my family, even Mike. I think we'll be talking about Mrs. Gobble Gracker for years.

Have there been any books that took your kids some convincing before they read them? And . . . are there any other Dory fans out there?


  1. Our 16 yr old boy recently read this to his younger brothers in one sitting, they loved it.

    1. Love it! (And loved your photo of it on Instagram!)

  2. Okay, I need to check this one out. I've seen it on the shelf, but haven't ever picked it up. Nice work getting your boys to read it!
    By the way, I've got Rascal checked out from the library right now! I want to read it to my kids over spring break.

    1. I hope you enjoy both books! Rascal has been a bit slow for us, but there have been some moments that we've absolutely loved.

  3. What a great review! I hadn't heard of this book before, but I'm definitely going to have to check it out now. We'd love for you to link this up with Literacy Musing Mondays Link-up if you're interested! You can find it at Thanks!

  4. I liked the Dory book -- I read as I plowed through last year's Cybils finalist. And I've done the read-a-bit trick several times on my kids, as they ignore my usually perfect recommendations.


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