A little girl’s record-breaking, ear-splitting voice leads her to a rewarding path in this debut picture book.
Juliet is born “tiny and sweet with 10 wiggly toes on her little brown feet”—and with lungs so powerful that her scream knocks birds out of the trees (eyes bulge, feathers fly) and curls the hair of the alarmed hospital nurses. The sound waves that Juliet generates as she grows up bounce around the solar system with such force that “far, far above Earth, in a ship just arriving, three alien Zorks said, ‘Let’s just keep on driving!’ ” A time-out in the corner, a slip on a slide, even a trip to the store can result in hair-raising screams that stun and alarm. But at age 9, Juliet delights in a new vocal outlet and passion: opera. Now Juliet sings “instead of crying/ and shouting/ and yowling/ and screaming,” and her voice, despite losing no volume, becomes “sweeter with each passing day.” Her proud mother eventually allows Juliet to sing in opera productions: “All over the world from Hong Kong to New Hampshire, / crowds came to see her and to listen in rapture / to a beautiful voice that could reach the back row/ that had started out loud and continued to grow.” Woodson demonstrates an appealing ability to balance humor and heart as she takes Juliet into adulthood and crafts a triumphant conclusion that serves as a gentle lesson for readers about the value of exploring the gifts that make them unique (even if those gifts can, for a time, give parents pause). In this uplifting, comical book’s attractive layout, the simple rhyming text and the illustrations occupy separate pages. The black type pops in a white background with decorative scalloped borders set against a filigreed design rendered in a palette alternating among green, peach, aqua, apricot, rose, red, lavender, gold, and burgundy. In contrast, the well-conceived, full-color illustrations by Lorena S. entertain with cartoon exaggeration (a nurse’s teeth-clenching grimace and the fleeing aliens are especially amusing), and then, with a deft touch, complement the author’s smooth tonal shift as the story eschews slapstick for a sense of celebration and dignity.
A warm and funny tale that delivers a simple message about how significant differences can inspire lifelong passions.