Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna (InfoSoup)
Wordless except for a few lines of text at the beginning and end, this graphic novel picture book is a blazing wonder. It shows the epic beginning of the wood that will one day become Pinocchio. A young tree is hit by a bolt of lightning and a branch falls off, a branch with clear limbs, body and head. The branch runs and is joined by a cat and fox. The three travel together to a snowy woods where there is also fire and now the branch is alight. As the story continues, a snake eats the fiery branch then spits it out. A dove flies with it, and drops it into the water. The branch sinks and is eaten by a shark. Image after image flies past, each with a story to tell and only a few moments to tell it. Finally, spring arrives and the branch sprouts leaves and roots, becoming a full tree itself, and the story of Pinocchio begins.
Unique and wondrous, this picture book is something entirely special. It is an origin story about far more than Pinocchio himself, showing that we all originate from a certain spark. Then along the way we are filled with fire, discover companions, take adventures, grow into our own, and our story at that point is just beginning.
The illustrations are spectacular. Done in watercolor that flows on the page, creating light and energy. There is also clever detailed use of the paint with leaves flowing to create characters and allowing space for almost mythical moments to take place on the page. There are deep colors of undersea and the dark of sky against snow.
Beautiful, raw and filled with innate energy, this picture book is something very special. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
Not As We Know It by Tom Avery (InfoSoup)
Jamie and Ned are twins growing up together on a tiny island in the English Channel. They love to do things as a pair, from scouring the beaches for treasures that wash up from the sea to watching Star Trek on DVD. But Ned is not well. He is fighting cystic fibrosis and the most recent treatments don’t seem to be working. Then one day, the brothers find a strange creature on the beach. It is hurt and they carry it to their garage where they fill a tub with saltwater and care for it. It’s like nothing they have ever seen before with its scales and gills combined with arms and legs. As the boys care for the creature, their grandfather tells them tales of mermen and mermaids. Jamie starts to hope that the creature can work a miracle for Ned, though Ned sees it very differently.
This novel for middle grade readers is riddled with sorrow and the drain of watching a loved one slowly decline. Yet Ned is also a ray of light himself, refusing to let his disorder rule his life. Still, the book is clearly headed for Ned to go where Jamie can’t follow, a journey he has to take on his own. As the creature brings hope to Jamie, it also brings him distress as he recognizes that his hope may be futile and readers will see it as a natural way to keep from facing his brother’s approaching death.
Both boys are strongly written characters. Jamie is pure heart, trying to be there for his brother and leaving school to be homeschooled alongside his brother. Jamie is a source of adventure and normalcy for Ned, something that keeps them close and also buoys up Ned’s moods and health. Ned is unwilling to do anything but face the truth of his situation and yet that doesn’t limit his activities. Instead it seems to fuel his desire to be more than just a dying boy. The pair of them together are pure radiance.
A powerful, tragic and hopeful book about brotherhood and death with more than a touch of magic. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from e-galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.