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TRUDI & PIA by Ursula Hegi Kirkus Star


by Ursula Hegi & illustrated by Giselle Potter

Pub Date: March 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-689-84683-5
Publisher: Atheneum

Excerpts taken nearly verbatim from Hegi’s adult novel, Stones from the River (1994), form a surprisingly cohesive story for children about Trudi, a dwarf girl, who comes to accept herself after meeting a dwarf woman, Pia, at the circus. Pia’s not in the circus because she’s a dwarf; rather, she’s an animal tamer. Upon meeting the glamorous, self-confident Pia, Trudi realizes she has it within her power to define normal; she vows to get furniture that will fit her proportions once she sits in the short-legged chairs in Pia’s trailer. Pia encourages her to speak softly and not always look up, so others will have to bend down to hear her; Pia also tells Trudi that she must find a way to find her place in her own town, rather than run away with Pia and the circus. Potter’s (The Year I Didn’t Go to School, 2002, etc.) colorful gouache illustrations span the realms of reality and the imagination; it’s heartbreaking to see Trudi in real life trying to stretch her limbs by hanging from doorframes or limit the growth of her head by tying scarves around it. But it’s comforting to see what Trudi can now picture: the fantasy island of dwarves where there are no “tall” people, as well as the hundreds of dwarves Pia says she has met worldwide. Hegi has done a remarkable job in cleanly distilling this child-friendly nugget from her wonderfully complex adult examination of a small German town in the years leading up to and during WWII; many of its themes are fascinating, but this one is particularly appropriate for adaptation into a picture book, especially one with illustrations as touching as these. (Picture book. 5-9)