An old woman who grants wishes travels through her lonely life in this poignant modern-day fairy tale about wishes, greed, and acceptance by debut author/illustrator Finning.
Hazelita is an old woman who has no home and few possessions. The one thing she has of worth is a magic broom her mother left her. If Hazelita uses it to sweep, it grants a wish for whomever owns the home she’s sweeping. She offers her gift in trade for a meal and a place to sleep as she travels, and many homeowners are more than willing to trade, though they rarely offer anything beyond the bare minimum. As the story begins, Hazelita’s travels have been going on for some time, to the point that the fame of the Broom Lady precedes her. At the first home in the tale, she’s offered only leftovers from the family’s meal, then left in solitude; she cries herself to sleep. In the morning, her broom grants the wish of the homeowner, who is suddenly rich; without further thought, the homeowner ushers Hazelita out the door. The next stop is much the same: a modicum of food and shelter in exchange for the transformation of a home into a large palace. At the third house, Hazelita is welcomed inside and treated as an honored guest. But despite the family’s generosity, Hazelita still cries herself to sleep. In the morning, despite the protests of the family, Hazelita sweeps—but nothing happens. As word spreads that the broom is broken, Hazelita is turned away, only to return to the generous family and, to her surprise, receive her own happy ending. Written in the style of an old fairy tale, this modern twist features contemporary homes and places from the author’s home state of Connecticut. The tale curiously lacks comeuppance for the wishing families who treated the old woman disrespectfully. Despite that, the heroes here are clearly in the family that offers love and acceptance and finds kindness more valuable than riches. Finning’s illustrations vary between magical images, as when the broom does its work surrounded by rainbow curlicues, and more detailed illustrations grounded in the scene, e.g., of Hazelita approaching a house or the family dancing around with the money they wished for. An illustration of Hazelita crying at night is particularly touching.
A beautifully told, wonderfully illustrated story of kindness and generosity.