The Secret Creature

Young Adult - Social Issues
136 Pages
Reviewed on 07/16/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Secret Creature is a work of fiction in the social issues, emotional writing, and interpersonal drama subgenres. It is intended for readers of all ages from middle grade upwards and was penned by author Angela Wilcox with gorgeous accompanying illustrations by artist Arlene Thaler. The creature of the title refers to a visual and metaphoric representation of a secret, one which the central child of the tale carries around with them as a burden. The story explores the beauty of being unafraid to share those things which make us different and the freedom in being our authentic selves, being accepted, and loving ourselves even more for it.

Author Angela Wilcox has crafted a really accessible book that shines a spotlight on how insecure our differences can make us and how we often feel (especially in our earlier years) that we might be the only person in the world holding onto this ‘secret’ about ourselves. The message is not just reserved for LGBTQ+ people but for anyone who has ever felt 'othered' by their differences and spent time comparing themselves to the proposed ‘normal’ image of the outside world. The artwork by illustrator Arlene Thaler perfectly captures this insecurity and fear, transforming the words of the piece into a vibrant and enhanced emotional experience as the central child of the tale grows, learns, and changes for the better. Overall, The Secret Creature is an absolute must-read that will benefit anyone of any age that struggles with the pressures of conformity and societal standards.

Pikasho Deka

Sometimes, people struggle with identity and secrets that follow them their entire lives. The Secret Creature by Angela Wilcox and Arlene Thaler is a children's tale about a young girl just like that. She lived in a happy home with her older brother and loving parents. But whenever she was alone, everything felt sad, and she couldn't figure out why. She heard a mysterious voice for years but couldn't locate its source. Now, the young girl has grown into a beautiful young woman who discovers that the voice came from a mysterious box with a creature inside it. Initially scared of it, the young woman befriends the beast and learns it has always been with her since childhood. Eventually, she acquires the courage to share her secret with others.

Author Angela Wilcox tells a moving story about a young girl facing her fears head-on and coming to terms with her identity. Complemented by some beautifully drawn illustrations by Arlene Thaler, this children's picture book stirs at your heartstrings and leaves you with a hopeful outlook about the future. Wilcox's storytelling resembles a fairytale, with the whimsy and wonder you may find in folk stories that contain underlying moral lessons about the world. As a reader, you find yourself immersed in the pages of this wonderful book from beginning to end. Arlene Thaler's illustrations perfectly capture the emotional notes of the story and bring out the characters off the pages. Although primarily aimed toward children and young adults, I think even adult readers will find much to learn and love with The Secret Creature.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

The Secret Creature follows the protagonist from being a young girl until she grows into womanhood. Angela Wilcox’s story begins with a nameless girl who is sad, even though she has a good family life. The girl locates a beautiful purple box in her closet, and opens it, revealing a creature. Instantly ashamed of the creature, the girl buries it deeper in her closet, but as time goes by, she is unfulfilled, so she secretly brings it out again. She’s surprised when her friend embraces her creature and eventually reveals that she has a creature, too. The girl is still concerned about introducing her parents to her creature and their reaction irritates her, but she learns to accept their indifference and embrace her identity.

Wrapped in symbolism, Angela Wilcox’s lovely story is one many generations can enjoy, whether they are reflecting on a time when they had a “secret creature” or are dealing with their feelings about one now. The book comes to life with pertinent illustrations by Arlene Thaler. Even the chamomile bush is meaningful as it symbolizes the protagonist’s struggle to overcome her fears and wade through difficult times. Its presence at the end of the story can almost be seen as a gift for readers, as the author and illustrator wish for their audience to successfully navigate the hardships in their lives. It is a relevant book for any teen or young adult who may be struggling with accepting part of themselves and revealing it to the world. The story will help younger generations feel more confident about feelings of belonging to an LGBTQ+ community, but the book could also relate to individuals with other internal battles, like mental health concerns. The Secret Creature would be at home in the hands of readers who need validation and encouragement to feel comfortable revealing their feelings publicly.