The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo

In The Troublemaker, a playful boy decides to play a prank on his sister by ‘kidnapping’ her stuffed bunny (not to mention the creative repurposing of her shoelaces and picnic mat!) without her permission.

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As these things usually go, however, the boy ends up getting an earful from his mom for his mischief, and he promises her to stay out of trouble. What they don’t count on is his sister’s bunny disappearing again, which initially casts some suspicion on him. But when the boy’s belongings also start to go missing — including his beloved and aptly named stuffed raccoon, Rascal — they realise that there’s another, far sneakier troublemaker in their midst, which indirectly helps the boy to become more considerate and respectful of other people’s feelings and belongings.

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The author excels at creating characterful protagonists, thanks in large part to her warmly distinctive and skilfully rendered illustrations, which seem to convey the characters’ innermost feelings without inelegantly spelling them out in the text. The soothingly muted ‘fall’ palette is also pleasing to the eye and draws you in to take a closer look at the details in the drawings — a must for this book in particular, since the cheeky illustrations make plain to observant readers (if not the characters themselves) the troublemaker’s identity and outrageous — if mostly harmless — exploits.

Anyone with siblings will also recognise the true-to-life family dynamics in play, which make the story immediately relatable; yet, at the same time, this charming tale will take the reader by surprise with its originality and imagination.

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