A girl leaves her sandcastle at dusk, just as the inevitable tide rushes in, and misses a small, plaintive light that appears in its window. Rushes of tingly surrealism continue throughout this wordless adventure story about the tiny inhabitants of the sandcastle, who escape by boat.
Double-page spreads immerse readers in a fantastical world studded with gem-like pleasures: Miniature mermaids frolic with seahorses, the shipwrecked family forage among towering seashells, starfish and seaweed, their washed-up girl feeds a seagull baby, standing on tippy-toes to reach its beak. While much Thumbelinan pleasure comes from watching the minute creatures navigate our suddenly gigantic world, even more riveting interplay occurs among characters of equal proportion. Arms strain from boat to boy as he’s thrown into the waves and his hands stretch to meet them—from way across the opposite page; a mermaid clutches his shoulders as he descends, locking eyes and leaving him in open-mouthed shock. These striking, imaginative scenes, rendered in a pleasingly realistic style, make for a magical read. Children will surely shout, “Cool!” many times reading such a cinematic, arresting picture book, but they will also diligently peruse the richly detailed illustrations that ultimately make this modern fairy-folk tale so engaging. And then there’s its embedded question, one as slippery as a fish and as old as the ocean: Was it all a dream or real?
One thing’s certain: It's magic. (Picture book. 4-10)