Review: The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren

whispering town

The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren, illustrated by Fabio Santomauro

In Nazi-occupied Denmark, Anett and her family are hiding a Jewish woman and her son in their cellar.  They must wait for a night with enough moonlight to see the boat in the harbor that will take them to safety in Sweden.  Anett works with their neighbors to get extra food to feed them and extra books from the library for them to read.  On her errands, Anett notices solders questioning her neighbors and she heads home quickly to warn her parents who in turn knock on the cellar door to alert the people they are sheltering.  Eventually, the soldiers come to Anett’s house but no one is home except Anett who manages to keep calm and turn them away.  But how will the woman and her son escape with no moon that night?  It will take an entire town to save them.

Elvgren tells a powerful story based on actual history in this picture book.  Presenting that history from the perspective of a participating child makes this book work particularly well.  The support of the town is cleverly displayed as Anett moves through town, informing people that they have “new friends” and the others offer extra food and support.  That is what makes the resolution so very satisfying, knowing that these are all people standing up to the Nazis in their own special way, including Anett herself.

Santomauro’s illustrations have a wonderful quirky quality to them.  Done with deep shadows that play against the fine lines, the book clearly shows the worry of the Danish people and also their strength as a community. 

This is a story many may not have heard before and it is definitely one worth sharing.  Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Kar-Ben Publishing.

Review: Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

number one sam

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

Sam wins every race, so he’s not worried at all at the big race.  His best friend Maggie is racing too, but Sam know that he is the best.  He quickly leaves everyone behind, except for Maggie who stays right with him and then wins the race!  Sam is devastated.  He didn’t sleep at all before the next race and is so distracted that he’s late starting the race!  Even starting after everyone else though, he quickly takes the lead.  But then, he sees a flock of chicks on the roadway and though he can get around them safely, he worries about the other racers not seeing them in time.  So Sam stops and saves the chicks who ride along with him to finish the race.  Sam finishes last, but as he approaches the finish line he can hear people cheering – for him!

Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for his first book The Watermelon Seed, Pizzoli has a knack for using simple language for big ideas.  His books are straight forward and have a classic feel about them, perfect for the smallest children.  At the same time, his books are not predictable.  I thought this book might deal with jealousy as its primary focus, but it changed in the middle of the book to be more about good decision making and being a good friend.  I appreciate that he was able to pivot a simple story like this into something with depth.  That takes real skill.

Just like his writing, Pizzoli’s art is simple.  He uses strong lines and bright colors to really create a feel that is distinctly his own.  This book fairly glows with yellow on the page, sunny and bright as the racers speed on the page.  Other pages with different emotions have different colors, something that really works to convey a change in feeling directly.

Another winner from Pizzoli, this book will appeal to children interested in cars and racing immediately but is also a great book about making good choices.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.