Sylvia Long’s Thumbelina by Sylvia Long

Enter the world of Thumbelina as depicted by award-winning illustrator Sylvia Long.  This is a classic tale of the tiny Thumbelina and her birth to a woman desperate to have a child.  Thumbelina is beautiful and is stolen by a toad to marry her son.  She is kept on a lily pad until the wedding is prepared.  The fish in the pond chew her lily pad free.  She then seeks shelter from the winter cold with a field mouse who decides that she should wed her neighbor, a mole.  Thumbelina discovers a bird in the tunnels that is supposedly dead, but that she nurses back to health.  In the spring, the bird returns to save her from a marriage to the mole.  He carries her to a special place where winter never comes and where she discovers others just her size, including a handsome prince.

Long has not only beautifully illustrated this classic tale, she has also created a very readable version of the story.  It is cleanly written, making if useful for classrooms or families looking for a version to share.  Long’s illustrations are jewel toned and delicate.  The small details that fill the book help tell more of the story.  The closeups of dragonflies, the bird and fairies are entrancing.  She has created a tale filled with color and beautiful perspectives and compositions.

Highly recommended, this book with its small heroine and classic story will entrance those new to the story and become a favorite of those of us who already love the tale.  Appropriate for ages 4-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by 5 Minutes for Books.

Birth Marked

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

This debut novel is an enthralling dystopian fantasy.  Gaia’s mother is a midwife and now at age 16, so is she.  Each month, the first children born must be advanced to behind the wall of the Enclave, escaping the poverty outside the wall.  It is Gaia’s duty to turn those children over just as her two older brothers were turned over.  Gaia herself was no advanced because of her scarred face.  But now Gaia’s parents have been seized by the Enclave and no one knows why.  When they do not return, Gaia decides to sneak inside the wall and see if she can find out what has happened to them.  Through her journey, Gaia learns that the lies being told to her and the others outside the wall are many and complex, but that one girl can still make a difference with one heroic act.

It took me some time to read this novel because I was savoring it.  The world building that O’Brien has done here is based on our own familiar world, but one that has suffered a climate catastrophe.  O’Brien offers just enough details about the world to make it clear, but concentrates more on the human situation than the environmental one.  Her society is complicated, fascinating and well rendered.  The same can be said of the heroine, Gaia.  She is bright though uneducated, defiant, clever and brave.  She is a great lens to view the society and her situation through.

There is adventure and romance in this novel, all told through the eyes of the girl who is a loner and outsider because of her disfiguring scar.  Get this into the hands of those who enjoy Tamora Pierce, because they will love this heroine and wait impatiently along with me for the next in the series.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.