All Maisie has ever wanted to do is ballet. All of her friends are in ballet with her, rather than attending her school. But Maisie hurt her leg a few months ago and has been unable to dance. She goes to school, spending all of her time alone there. She gets texts from her ballet friends, but often doesn’t feel like responding to them. Now her family is planning a trip to the coast, near the Makah community where her mother was raised. Maisie’s doctor has agreed that since she is healing so well, she can hike the wintry forest with her family, in fact, she may be able to start dancing soon! Spending the days together with her mother, little brother and stepfather though makes it tough. Maisie is optimistic that her leg will get better, but tired of being asked about it, especially as her leg starts to twinge more and more as the trip goes on. Maisie must face the question of what she is if she cannot be a dancer after all.
Day’s book is quiet and thoughtful. She builds a supportive family for Maisie, blended out of her mother and a loving stepfather who is unfailingly kind but also willing to set boundaries too. Her little brother serves a critical role in the book, often being the only person who can bring Maisie out of her sadness and focusing on her leg. The deep conversations Maisie has with her parents come naturally as part of the story and serve to reveal the adults’ backgrounds, Native history and give context to what Maisie is going through.
Maisie herself is a protagonist who is deeply focused on herself. She finds herself saying things to her parents that she regrets, treating her little brother poorly at times, and then trying to remedy it. She is full of a deep sadness and anger, even when she is optimistic about her future. The book is a study of a girl suffering a real loss of her dreams and coming to terms with that.
Wintry yet full of warmth and self discovery. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
When the king is too scared to sleep, he sends his three brave knights out to save the kingdom from the dragon in his nightmare. Armed with a sword, a polearm and a candle, the three make their way through the deep darkness of the pages, illuminated only when their candle gets close enough to chase away the shadows. The knights have never seen a dragon, so they talk about what a dragon looks like as they walk. Readers will see dragons in the shadows on each page, which after the page turn are revealed to be things like piles of fluffy sleeping bunnies or large plants with birds roosting on them or even bears and foxes curled up snoring. After falling into the water, two of the knights are ready to turn back. Just as the candle finally goes out, the knights head home, and that’s when a shadow starts to move…
Timmers has a marvelous sense of humor in all of his picture books. This book glows with that humor, as each shadow is cleverly revealed to be nothing at all. The dialogue between the knights is delightful, talking about the dangers of dragons from their flaming breath to spiky tails to sharp teeth. As each is discussed, the knights firmly declare that they are not scared or bothered. Just the page turns alone in this picture book are a joy, each reveal is great fun to guess at before turning the page.
The art is fabulous, from the big details of the shadowy dragon shapes to the small detail of the candle steadily shrinking as the pages turn. While the short knight has quite an uneventful hike through the forest, the other two knights find themselves in a lot more trouble along the way. The final dragon reveal is marvelously satisfying, particularly the final page.
Perfect for any knights and dragon fans you might have, this book is a great read aloud. Appropriate for ages 3-5.