Preteens weaned on Disney princesses may swoon for this melancholy modern fairy tale starring the lovely Russian dressmaker Polina Panova who is neither a French duck nor from Venice, Italy, as the title suggests.
No, Polina is from Venice, Calif., the Venice with “surfers, bungalows, and seagulls,” and she’s adored by her two talking French duck friends Georges and Cécile. Polina sews her extraordinary dresses with silk and velvet, but also—magically—with flowers, jam and the night sky. Her live-in boyfriend, the handsome Sebastian Sterling (surely a prince, say the ducks), is a filmmaker in Los Angeles. One day, the fiercely loyal ducks spy Sterling with “the kind of suitcase you pack when you are going away forever.” Polina is sad to lose her love, but she throws herself into her dressmaking, which, in time, soothes her heartache—always an inspiring lesson for the romantically rejected. Debut illustrator McGuire’s digitally created, atmospheric canalscapes are deliciously infused with a soft light that reflects the dreamlike hush of Polina’s mystery-laden world. The oddly stilted and meandering story, however, isn’t nearly as enchanting as either the artwork or Polina’s dresses—the quirkiness feels contrived, and oft-repeated phrases such as “happy and peaceful and amazed” may just wear thin.
A splendidly illustrated but somewhat awkwardly spun tale of inner strength found when love is lost. (Illustrated fiction. 9-14)