Telling someone your story is a little like describing a dream.
“When I was a child, / my own story / made me very sad,” the narrator says, early in this picture book. At first, he has trouble finding anyone to listen to him; he keeps warning people, “I might cry when I tell it.” But the old woman who tells stories in his village turns out to be a very good listener. His story is both very sad and very simple: He is short. “I don’t like ME!” he explains, and adds, “I can’t tell my mother or father or anyone in my family because they don’t mind being short.” His story feels, like many dreams, both a little anticlimactic and like the most important thing in the world. The climax may affect readers not when they first read it but later, when they’ve had time to think about it. The narrator comes to realize, movingly, that, like the members of his family, he can be “brave and strong and kind.” The illustrations are haunting, a surprising combination of line drawings and painterly backgrounds. They look like chalk pictures, if chalk could draw on the water or the night sky. The main characters are all light-skinned, but the background characters have a wider variety of skin tones. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)
With the right listener, every story feels urgent. This book makes every reader a listener.(Picture book. 4-8)