Step inside the pages of a little girl’s magical book as she discovers the profound and inspiring notion that we each bring something different to the same story. Two-time Caldecott Honor artist Pamela Zagarenski debuts as an author in this tender picture book about the joy of reading.
Gr 1–3—A sweet-faced girl in a red hood borrows a special book from her teacher. As she runs home, oblivious to what is happening, the words escape. While a fox nets the jumbled letters, readers can discern “once upon a time,” “wizard,” “bears,” etc. At home, the child is disappointed, thinking the book lacks a story. Then she hears the whisper: “You can imagine the words…the stories….There are never any rules…imagining just is.” She develops an approach, looking more closely at the pictures and asking herself questions from her vantage point at the border. Ironically, this is not a wordless experience for readers; the girl develops opening sentences for the next seven magical compositions. Zagarenski’s signature wheels, teacups, crowns, and tigers populate these richly layered, golden scenes, full of texture and mystery: an elephant and lion float by on a quest, a wizard blows bubbles that become real creatures. During the girl’s return trip to school, the fox requests help reaching grapes. Those familiar with Aesop may be surprised that no trickery is involved. The endpapers reveal the edited fable; the listening fox has also learned about imagining and reimagining. Stories about storytelling can be hard sells to children, who generally prefer the familiar arc of a sustained narrative. However, the mixed-media art is so stunning in this Caldecott-honor artist’s first foray into writing that they will make an exception. VERDICT A sumptuously illustrated fable about the magic of storytelling and the power of imagination.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library