February 13, 2017
“Once upon a time in a beautiful glass kingdom, there lived an unusual fairy named Bloom.” It seems that everywhere Bloom walked, she left a trail of muddy boot prints. Ladybugs clung to her wings. She could spin sand into glass, turn a trickle of water into a river, and weeds became blossoms. But she also had a heavy foot. In addition to leaving mud, she often left tiny cracks.
As the kingdom grew larger and more shiny, the people no longer noticed Bloom’s abilities. All they saw was the mess she left behind. Gripe, gripe, gripe. A fairy can only stand so much and one day she left.
As you can imagine, a glass kingdom is a fragile thing and without the fairy that could spin glass, it fell into disrepair. The king remembered Bloom and rode out to find her. Then the queen rode out.
Let’s just say that it didn’t work. It wasn’t that they couldn’t find Bloom, but that she refused to help. They decided that the problem was that they were royalty and, as royalty, sure to intimidate a quiet, little fairy. So they chose Genevieve, the most ordinary girl in the kingdom, and sent her to find the fairy.
Before long, Bloom is teaching her all that she needs to know to build. Along the way Genevieve also learns to speak out, get her hands dirty and that there is no such thing as an ordinary girl.
I have to admit that at first I shrank back from this book. Oh, no. Another special snowflake story. But this isn’t about being special in spite of the fact that you do nothing. This is a story all about a girl who is quiet and shy and proper and altogether typical but still accomplishes what the king and queen could not. She, quite literally, saves the kingdom and she does it in an all new way.
You may recognize David Small’s illustrations and that isn’t surprising. He is the winner of the Caldecott Award–winning illustrator of So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George. He also illustrated Sarah Stewart’s The Gardener, one of my favorites, One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, and Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen.
Share this book with your class and get ready for a great group discussion on how to solve a wealth of problems.
November 25, 2010
by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by David Small
AR 4. 3
Elsie loves everything about life in Boston — the calls of the fish merchants, the screams of the gulls, skipping rope with her friends, horses hooves on cobble stones and the songs of the many birds. Even after Mama dies, Elsie loves Boston but Boston holds too much sadness for Papa. When Papa decides he has to find some place he can be happy, Elsie doesn’t hesitate. She’s already lost one parent. No way is Papa heading to Nebraska without her.
But Nebraska isn’t Boston and Elsie can’t bring herself to leave the confines of their little dugout house. The prairie is just too big and too quiet, so quiet you can hear the wind blowing in the grass. Inside is filled with the songs of her beloved canary Timmy Tune —
until the day Timmy flies out of his cage and into the wide open prairie.
Facing a loss she might be able to prevent, Elsie finds the courage to go after her beloved pet and finds a whole word outside the dugout door.
Yolen has created an amazing story of love and loss, of fear and courage, of home and the larger world. Small’s art work captures an amazing range of emotion on the faces of Elsie, her father, and her grandparents. He uses color to mirror Elsie’s growing love of the prairie — grey when she is scared to a variety of greens and yellows as her heart is opened.
As much as I love many of Yolen’s books, I have to admit that I was first drawn in by Small’s art work. His simple lines and use of color in some ways resemble comic book art — expressing so much in such a simple form.
Whether your young reader loves the prairie, a particular bird or is having trouble facing a new challenge or change, this gentle story is sure to find a place next to your reading chair and in your heart.
August 6, 2009
The Gardener (AR 3 .9 )
by Sarah Stewart
(Farrar Straus & Giroux)
Even when things are down, including the economy, Lydia Grace looks for the silver lining. Set during the Great Depression, Lydia Grace is sent to live with her Uncle Jim above his bakery in the city. With Daddy out of work and no one asking Momma to sew, there’s really no other way. In the city, Lydia Grace misses Grandma and her garden but she learns to bake bread even as she finds cracked cups and cans to use in creating her own rooftop oasis.
If you haven’t read this one, pick it up. For whatever reason, my library remaindered a copy so I have a glorious hard cover of this Caldecott Honor book.
Told through the letters Lydia Grace writes first to her uncle and then her family back on the farm, the spare text is broadened and deepened through David Small’s remarkably detailed illustrations.
Perfect for young plant lovers, young bakers and every kid who has had to go somewhere they didn’t want to go, do something they didn’t want to do, and endure a scowling adult.
A quiet feel good read for book lovers of all ages.
January 20, 2009
In honor of today — a book about what determined people can do.
That Book Woman (AR 4. 3 )
by Heather Henson
illustrated by David Small
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
What does this book have to do with Obama’s inauguration? Both are so full of hope, they made me cry even though I swore I wouldn’t.
As part of the WPA, Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt sent librarians on horseback into the Appalachian Mountains. He sent them places where there were no roads. Where schools were inaccessible. Where people still bartered for what they needed with a poke of berries or a treasured recipe.
The narrator is a young boy who already does a full days work while his sister props her feet up, nosing at the chicken scratches in a book. He doesn’t have the time for the silliness of made up stories until the Book Woman impresses him with her bravery, riding up the mountain in a snow storm. What could make her take such a risk? The only way to find out is to turn to his kid sister for help.
Small’s ink, watercolor and chalk illustrations are reminiscent of comic book art, duplicating that forms emotion, expression and vitality although his color work is somewhat more subtle.
When the time comes to bid farewell to a favorite teacher at the end of the school year, this book would make an excellent gift.