Teacup by Rebecca Young, illustrated by Matt Ottley (InfoSoup)
A boy sets off in a boat, leaving his home behind with only a book, a bottle, a blanket and a teacup of earth from his homeland. The journey is long and filled with changing days at sea. Sometimes it is quiet, other times dangerous, other times dramatic. Then one day, the earth in his teacup begins to sprout, growing into a tree that shelters him, gives him food, and offers hope. Eventually, his boat bumps into land where he moves his tree to a hill and it grows taller. He waits for a whisper and when it comes, he discovers another traveler has joined him.
This is such a gentle book yet it speaks to larger issues of displacement, refugees and homelessness. Young’s text is poetic, creating moments of quietness and moments of wonder, often side-by-side. While we don’t truly get to know the boy himself, the book embraces the journey that people take into the unknown, whether that means leaving your family and country behind or starting a new school.
Ottley’s illustrations are stunningly beautiful. He captures the sea journey with a feeling of expansiveness, the boy and his boat small in the image and sky and sea vast around him. The clouds are immensely lovely, conveying menace and hope as appropriate to the story. These are illustrations to linger over and just feel.
A gorgeous allegory picture book sure to speak to those of us on longer or shorter journeys in our lives. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from ARC received from Dial Books.
The Water Princess by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (InfoSoup)
Gie Gie imagines herself to be a princess with a kingdom as big as the African sky. She can tell the wind when to blow, the grass when to sway. But she cannot move the water closer to their home. Every day, Gie Gie and her mother walk to get water, a walk that takes almost the entire day. As they walk, they sing and dance together, stop under the shade of a large tree for a snack. When they reach the water, others are there and Gie Gie plays with her friends as her mother waits in line. Soon it is their turn and they start their long walk back balancing the water in pots on their heads. Back home, Gie Gie finally gets a drink of the precious water and falls asleep, knowing she must make the same walk the next day.
This picture book is based on the childhood of supermodel Georgie Badiel, who has a foundation working to bring clean water to Burkina Faso and other African countries. Verde writes with a poetic touch throughout, the prose light as a breeze carrying the story forward. There is no lecture here about clean water, rather it is a look at the hard work and endurance it takes to bring clean water to African villages.
The illustrations by Reynolds are done in his signature style with a flowing beauty that works particularly well here. He uses deep colors that show the dry landscape in yellows and oranges that are occasionally punctuated with greens and blues, the colors of water and hope.
A light feeling picture book that has a deep story to tell, this is a compelling read. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from ARC received from GP Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.