Kirkus Reviews QR Code


by Kate DiCamillo ; illustrated by Julie Morstad

Pub Date: Oct. 10th, 2023
ISBN: 9781536216752
Publisher: Candlewick

Puppets yearn for greater things.

In a toy store, a lonely old sea captain named Spelhorst spies a puppet who reminds him of a lost love. He tries to buy her but is told he must purchase the full set—a king, a wolf, an owl, and a boy—as these puppets “are in a story.” The captain agrees, and that night, he mourns and writes a mysterious letter before dying in his sleep. Sold by the rag-and-bone man, the puppets eventually find their way to two sisters. While the older sister begins writing a play for the puppets, misadventures befall them; each engaging escapade is relevant to the story arc of the puppet in question. For instance, some of the wolf’s teeth are yanked out by the younger sister, and after the maid tosses the puppet out, a fox absconds with her—the first devastates the wolf, as her teeth were her pride, yet traveling through the wild woods fulfills her deepest wish. Gentle tension builds as the puppets wonder if they will be reunited. After exploring their desires and identities, the recovered puppets put on the older sister's play, a story that, though she couldn’t have known it, has beautiful symmetry with the puppets’ adventures. Theatrical language prevents the parallels from becoming too heavy-handed. The vaguely Victorian characters present white in charming drawings that set the mood.

A quiet, comforting fable of identity and belonging.

(Fantasy. 7-10)