Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: TOO BRIGHT TO SEE by Kyle Lukoff
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Amanda Bishop.
In Kyle Lukoff’s TOO BRIGHT TO SEE we are introduced to Bug, a child who is grieving over the loss of their uncle during the summer before the start of middle school. Along with the loss of their uncle, they are also coping with the perils of growing up and not fitting in. Bug’s best friend is getting ready for middle school by learning about makeup, clothes, and crushes. But Bug isn’t interested in things like that and doesn’t understand why. When a ghost begins haunting Bug’s house, and more specifically Bug, they find out that this ghost is trying to tell them something important about who Bug is.
Lukoff manages to weave together a ghost story that not only deals with an actual haunting, but also the ghosts that we live with, and what haunts us in terms of finding out who we really are. Bug does not have the understanding of what it means to be transgender and does not understand who they are yet. It isn’t until the ghost leads them on a journey of self-understanding that Bug can truly understand who they really are. The narrative helps us going through the journey with Bug and to really empathize with all that he is experiencing and feeling.
I love how Lukoff transforms both the mystery novel and the coming-of-age novel into something wholly new, especially for it being his middle grade debut. In terms of Newbery criteria, I believe that Lukoff’s writing shines in terms of the development of the plot. Readers are taken along on the journey of Bug’s acceptance of who he truly is while empathizing with the perils of this age, which are particularly difficult for transgender children. This is a tender and beautiful book about identity, grief, and growing up.
Filed under: Book Discussion, Heavy Medal Mock
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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