Text that sings like poetry narrates a gorgeous re-envisioning of “Thumbelina.”
Lina’s mother discovers her “in a silken flower / in a garden of wishes.” She blesses her new daughter, and she worries, “for many dangers wait upon a girl / no bigger than a thumb.” This piece shares Hans Christian Andersen’s plot but not its old themes of marriage and Thumbelina’s prettiness, powerlessness and self-sacrifice. Instead, with lyrical elegance, Krishnaswami gives Lina agency. When a frog traps her, Lina sings: “Wind-swish, bird-flutter, / fish-bubble and all, / come to me now, / come when I call.” Lina shows these fish “how to snip and where to chew, / and soon they cut the leaf free of its stem, / so it floated like a raft.” When weeds and bugs mire her leaf-raft, tenacious Lina “kicked and paddled with all her might, / until her lily pad pulled free.” Left-hand pages feature text on white background; right-hand pages have exquisite, full-bleed paintings in acrylic and tissue. Using sumptuous colors, luscious paint texture, patterns, smudges and delicate lines, Khosravi places characters in arresting, abstract compositions that recall Marc Chagall. “[B]irdsong and lonely fear” are part of Lina’s journey, alongside discovery and strength—and her mother, reappearing in “the map of [Lina’s] own life / spread out like a carpet” before Lina’s next departure.
A must. (author’s note, publisher’s note) (Picture book. 5-10)