Monday, April 07, 2008


THUMBELINA OF TOULABA by Daniel Picouly, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (Enchanted Lion Press)

At these words, whoever was lucky enough to be wearing scales jumped, gulped, and carried off Thumbelina, saving her from the lovesick animals, a true peril. For if one love is worth a hundred dangers, the worst of dangers is to accumulate one thousand loves.
This re-invention inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale set against the backdrop of Martinique is startling in beauty and mystery. Little Thumbelina is carried through a wild and tangled backdrop awash with gruesome animal suitors, to whom she learns to say "no," sticking with her more flyaway lifestyle. The writing of the story is, in fact, a little all-over-the-place, but no great matter, because so is Thumbelina, floating from scene to harrowing scene like a pollinating seed. A "glossary of the exotic" is included, though it would have been helpful for children to know upon which page each item appears; it's rather tricky to search for an "ocelot" or "calabash" without knowing quite where to look. For all of the shortcomings, this book is fun to compare with the original during this month of Andersen's birth. It also speaks to adventurous children who want a truly unpredictable and dramatic reading experience, and who are prepared to lose themselves in the oversized illustrations. There is a fierce bravery in every brushstroke, and an explosive, expressive abandon of the conventions of the color wheel. The garden has taken over, and all we can say is: wow. (7 and up)

Also of interest:
Just in time for National Poetry Month we have this new offering by the same illustrator, who is one to watch; at this rate, I think he is worthy of Hans Christian Andersen Award consideration down the pike.

THIS IS A POEM THAT HEALS FISH by Jeanne-Pierre Siméon, illustrated by Olivier Tallec (Enchanted Lion Books)

"Mommy, my fish is going to die!
Come quickly! Leon is going to die of boredom!"

Arthur's mommy looks at him.
She closes her eyes,
she opens her eyes...
Then she smiles:
"Hurry, give him a poem!"
And she leaves for her tuba lesson.

But what is a poem? Is it the heartbeat in a stone, or when words beat their wings against the bars of a cage, or words turned, like an old sweater, backwards and inside out? Arthur rummages under the bed and in cupboards, interviews neighbors and grandparents, and by and by connects the cryptic quips and voices to create (what else?) a lovely poem out of the small and merry and honest things in his world. With illustrated flights of the imagination such as cresent moons hanging like fruit from the sky and palm trees growing upside-down, oh-la-la, that fish won't be bored for long. Funny and provocative, every teacher (and author!) needs to share this book to springboard into the conversation of what makes a poem...and where do we find our own?

Shop with Esmé
In honor of the trippy horticulture in Thumbelina of Toulaba, plant something besides the seed to read! Every season I plant these Renee's Garden "Magic Beanstalk" beans (scarlet runner beans) in my city-girl community garden. Their winding vines grow long and have pretty red blooms, but best of all, the seed pods contain beans that are the craziest un-bean-like fuchsia color. Open them up in front of children to hear them go "ooooo!" and believe that there just must still just possibly be some magic left in the world. I understand you can cook and eat them, but I never have; I just dry them until they turn their curious purple, and then they are just right for sharing with other storybook gardeners. Who says a seed is sleepy (besides author Dianna Aston)?

Also hope to meet up with these Velveteen Rabbits from the Victorian Trading Company, finally on sale aprés Easter but still spring-y. I'm afraid these will be the only bunnies welcome in my garden!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

1 comment:

DianeRChen Kelly said...

Since today is the [unofficial] Blogger Appreciation Day, I wanted to say a quick "THANKS" for writing. I am reading and thinking about what you wrote.

Sometimes I forget to tell you how much I enjoy your blog posts. Thanks to you Esme!


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