Picture Book Reviews: The Dreamer & Zola’s Elephant

Yes indeed, it is time for more picture book talk! I have two elegant and imaginative picture books here, courtesy of the kind folks at Raincoast Books!

The Dreamer by by Il Sung Na tells the story of a pig whose big dream is to fly. He thinks about the possibilities of flight- of somehow, actually being able to join the birds he so admires and follow them as they fly south…but such a thing isn’t possible, is it? As pig studies, contemplates different contraptions, performs flight tests, and even has friends help him out, he discovers that perhaps the best way to create a flying apparatus might be to listen to birds! Through hard work and multiple trials, pig’s dream does, marvelously, come true…which is then followed by this reflection: “There was no height he couldn’t reach. Was there?”. A further surprise in pig meeting another rather incredible goal and the long-reaching aftereffects of his accomplishments are steadied by a quiet and contemplative ending that very nicely tie back to pig’s love of watching birds and initial desires. A picture book about the possibilities of seemingly unreachable desires coming true through study and perseverance, The Dreamer is another lovely, playful yet understated read from A Book of Sleep author and illustrator Il Sung Na. Readers who enjoyed Dan Santat’s After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) might especially enjoy spending time with The Dreamer.

 

Zola’s Elephant by Toy Boat author Randall de Sève and illustrated by two-time Caldecott Honor winner Pamela Zagarenski opens with our young narrator telling readers about “a new girl next door” named Zola. The child tells us that while their respective mothers have “decided we should be friends”, the appearance of a big, big moving box has convinced the narrator that “Zola already has a friend”: an elephant! While the narrator is convinced (and keeps trying to convince the reader!) that Zola is absolutely having a grand time with her elephant- imagining Zola making the elephant toast, them having a bath, or playing hide-and-seek- readers see Zola’s actual, much more muted world. A world that sees Zola next door, by herself, washing dishes, lying on moving boxes as adults stumble with boxes, holding her hands up to her ears to quell the noise of hammering, and appearing a little bit lost, a little bit lonely. As Zola’s neighbor imagines an increasingly vibrant, rich and impossibly wondrous life that Zola is having with her elephant, our narrator makes the pivotal, arguably brave decision to take a walk over to Zola’s house and introduce herself. Zola’s Elephant is a terrific, nuanced exploration into the heartache and realities of moving and of the worries involved in taking those first steps to begin a possible friendship. Fans of Zagarenski’s critically-acclaimed picture books (and of her immediately recognizable, old-world yet modern style) will likely love poring over the gorgeously detailed, layered and fabulously fanciful illustrations accompanying de Sève’s tender, hopeful and beautiful story.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. The picture books reviewed in this post have been published and are currently available.

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