Day: November 10, 2015

Review: Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago

Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago, illustrated by Rafael Yockteng, translated by Elisa Amado (InfoSoup)

A little girl and her father travel together. As they go, the little girl counts different things like chickens and the people who live by the train tracks. They are accompanied by a coyote, shown as an animal here but clearly meant to represent the person they pay to get them to safety eventually. The two board a train, riding on the roof where the little girl counts clouds and falls asleep when it gets dark. They and their coyote avoid soldiers, wait on the side of a highway, and even make new friends along the way. Her new friend gives her two white rabbits to take with them, rabbits that they eventually release into the wild near a border wall.

Filled with a powerful blend of the naive understanding of the young child and the harshness of trying to escape to a new country with a coyote, this picture book captures the risk and harrowing nature of that journey. The book ends with a statement by the President of IBBY Foundation about the millions of people who make journeys like this every year, including the hundreds of thousands of children from Central America traveling north. The author uses symbolism in a powerful way, showing the coyote as an animal and also the two white rabbits who are clearly both a present and the father and daughter themselves. The ending is ambiguous and will invite discussion about what happens to the rabbits and to the people.

The art by Yockteng is filled with delicate lines. He takes what could have been thoroughly grim moments and enlivens them with the eyes of the child. So the crossing of a muddy river becomes an adventure, the ride aboard the train is time to spend close together, and the wait by a highway is a chance to bond with another child. At the same time, readers will also see the truth, the danger and the exhaustion of the journey. It is a delicate balance that is beautifully achieved.

A book to inspire discussion, this picture book speaks the truth about desperate families looking for a better life and the risks they will take to reach it. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell (InfoSoup)

When a group of dwarfs travels through their tunnels in the mountain to another land, they discover that a sleeping curse is spreading across the world and will soon threaten the kingdom they live in. It all originated with one castle, an angry fairy and a young princess. The dwarfs return through the mountain and let their queen know of the danger. Though it is about to be her wedding day, she goes with them. They discover a land falling fast asleep and that the sleepers will follow them slowly. The castle has a hedge of thorns around it that seems impenetrable. Inside the castle is an old woman who is the only one left awake. She knows that no one can pass the thorns and considers killing the beautiful girl asleep on the bed to lift the curse, but she doesn’t. It is the queen alone who can figure out how to pass the thorns and who will recognize the evil for what it actually is.

Gaiman takes the Grimm story of Sleeping Beauty and makes it lush and incredibly beautiful. His prose is gorgeous, lingering on small things and building a world that is filled with a deadly magic. The queen herself is a great character, much more interested in being a heroine than a queen and having adventures rather than a gorgeous wedding dress. Gaiman does not cringe away from a woman saving another woman, and then he does an amazing twist to the story. One that readers will be shocked by and one that allows it all to click into place, hauntingly.

Riddell’s illustrations are done in pen and ink, made shimmering by touches of gold throughout. Yet it is truly his art which shines here, the details of people asleep as spider’s weave webs across their faces, the dark beauty of the queen and the blonde beauty of the sleeping girl. There is also a beauty to the old woman that is unique and special and to the dwarfs too with their roughened features. The setting too is brought clearly to life as they traverse it.

A glorious new feminist version of Sleeping Beauty that twists and turns before a very satisfying ending. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.