Once again, Polacco brings forth a new family story, this time about her grandmother.
One of nine children, Estella was born in a “Mermaid’s Purse,” a birth membrane that people believed brought “God’s blessing and gifts [that] will fall upon the child like spring rain.” For the little white girl, her gift is an uncanny ability to foretell storms, but more than anything, she loves being read to at night. “As soon as Stella could stretch her right arm over the top of her own head and grasp her left ear, she [is] sent off to school,” where she teaches herself to read. (Children will be puzzled at the unexplained shift from Estella to Stella as the narrative progresses.) She amasses so many books that her father builds a library for her, which she calls the Mermaid’s Purse. She shares her books with all the farming folks. Thanks to her books, she rescues a herd of goats, saves Moon Eyes Fred from drowning, and even teaches Pig Ears Lonsberry to read. The day she senses a tornado coming, her family takes shelter, but the twister demolishes her beloved library. All her books are gone. Or are they? Polacco’s signature textual and illustrative styles blend to depict a folksy, bygone past. The pencil-and-marker artwork lovingly evokes the poignant memory, making this one of her most personal-feeling books. Three photos of her grandmother on the back page add backbone to the tale.
Heartwarming. (Picture book. 5-9)