A girl embarks on a journey, defying her village’s gender norms in this picture book from Gross (Failure and Forgiveness, 1997) and two impressive young artists.
Lucy dreamed of becoming a knight, but her parents and her brother tell her that only boys can do so. Unwilling to accept their word for it, she asks the wisest knight, Sir Winston, to show her the rule that prohibits young women from being knights. He’s unable to find it, as are the other knights he calls in to search. Lucy becomes determined to take the required tests in which she must prove that she has endurance, strength, and courage. But Sir Winston doesn’t want to let a little girl succeed, so he devises very difficult challenges. The first: Lucy must stay a day and a night in the Dangerous Dark Forest, taking only belongings that can fit in a bag smaller than a sparrow. Lucy’s not worried; she packs a jar to catch fireflies (albeit one that’s much larger than a sparrow in the illustrations), a feather, and some seeds and nuts. With the feather, she marks a place for herself in the forest; with the jar, she catches bugs; and with the nuts and seeds, she befriends woodland creatures. To prove her strength, she must move a large boulder, but Lucy relies on her cleverness and the help of her woodland friends. And last, she must prove her courage—and convince the knights to accept her. For readers too young for Tamora Pierce’s classic 1983 YA fantasy Alanna: The First Adventure, Gross’ knighthood journey provides a nice counterpoint to the many princess-related books available for young readers. Illustrators Shin and Jang keep a consistent tone using a variety of media, including oil pastel, collage, and pen-and-ink, and their depictions of the curly-haired girl with a plucky attitude are appealing. The challenging vocabulary and text density make this a good choice for confident, independent readers who are already familiar with the three-part quest structures of many traditional stories.
A familiar, well-illustrated riff on fairy tales with a strong message about following one’s dreams.