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A SINGLE PEARL by Donna Jo Napoli


by Donna Jo Napoli ; illustrated by Jim LaMarche

Age Range: 4 - 7

Pub Date: June 18th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4231-4557-8
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

A potentially charming tale about a perfect pearl that takes form from a simple grain of sand is laden with heavy-handed life lessons.

The grain becomes embedded in an oyster and is slowly coated with protective layers until a diver brings it up, discovers the beautiful pearl it has become and sets it on a journey that carries it home to a lovely young princess. The tale might have succeeded as a story of how the pearl became the imperial jewel of Persia, the nominal plot, but Napoli missteps by endowing the grain of sand with deep emotions of hopelessness and helplessness and, eventually, love and joy. The message that each person has the ability to change and grow is clearly intended to be uplifting and encouraging. However, all the changes to the grain of sand come about naturally: It does not make itself into a pearl; that outcome is accomplished by the oyster and time. Moreover, a pearl has no value beyond what humans place upon it. The princess loves the pearl, certainly with no thought to the grain of sand at its center. LaMarche’s lovely illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint and colored pencil in a palette of pink, purple and turquoise, with appropriately luminescent pearls, transcend the weaknesses of the text.

 A well-meaning tale is overwhelmed by an over-the-top attempt at inspiration. (Picture book. 4-7)