Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The girl of the wish garden: a Thumbelina story by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrated by Nasrin Khosravi

Mostly, I purchase books of general interest. The more "arty" books, the fancy award-winners, the books with subtle meanings and delicate art that the critics rave over, I glance at and pass over without regret.

We own a lot of Fancy Nancy and Llama Llama.

However, sometimes a book that's a little different, that's haunting and artistic and poetic and all those words that usually make me cringe, comes along and I fall in love.

The author has written a number of books with extensive reviews and awards, none of which I have ever heard of. The illustrator (now deceased) was apparently a well-known Iranian illustrator. I saw the cover of this book at ALA last summer and was intrigued enough to request it via inter-library loan, as no libraries in our consortium owned it.

The story is a poetic retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's Thumbelina, although the original story is referenced only in the subtitle and author's note. Each page features a poetic interpretation of one of Thumbelina's adventures facing a full-page illustration. The text, while a little lengthier than the average children's picture book, will make word lovers quiver with delight.

"In a land of dreams, where time itself
can shift and change,
I once saw this tale unfold.

The child was named Lina.
Her mother had found her in a silken flower
in a garden of wishes, where the birds sang wild
and the winds blew free."

It would take someone who actually knew something about art to adequately describe Khosravi's illustrations, but when I look at them I see numerous details that will keep drowsy children occupied while the words flow around them. Thumbelina's skirts billow about her as she floats through complex landscapes of color and pattern, with picture layered upon pictures. Repeated motifs dance from page to page as the colors shift from blazing reds and dark browns and blues to the billowing white of snow, winter, and finally Lina's dress shifts from red to white as Lina rides off on the wind.

Verdict: This is one unique book that will have a fairly wide appeal, thanks to the intricate and beautiful artwork. Some parents might balk a little at reading the poetry aloud, but I would booktalk this as a lovely bedtime story, sure to provide sweet dreams.

ISBN: 9781554983247; Published 2013 by Groundwood Books; Borrowed via inter-library loan; Added to my tentative order list

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