As a reviewer, I’m sometimes sent copies of upcoming picture books. These two books, scheduled to be published in 2020, stood out as being particularly great new stories.
“Numenia and the Hurricane” (2020, Page Street Kids, written and illustrated by Fiona Halliday, ages 5-10) is based on the true story of a whimbrel, a migratory shorebird, who survived being caught in a hurricane during her long southward migration.
Written in verse, the language and detailed collage artwork capture both the simplicity and complexity of the plight. “Three sisters born/By arctic shore/On bare, cold rock/As spring winds roar Hunting bugs in/Thawing creeks./Spearing, gobbling/Growing beaks.”
Not long after they mature, off they fly, “Surging out of Hudson Bay,” beginning their migration. However, a great stampede of hissing raindrops rips one sister away. Down she swoops, flailing, until she lands on a windowsill. The evocative artwork shows a human face peering at her, and we see her being fed until she’s strong enough to fly onward.
“In restless dreams,/She’s one of three:/Three sisters in a/Tangled tree.” Searching, she flies with other “storm-tossed birds” hugging the lines of the “battered coasts,” seeking her sisters.
We feel her struggle in the lyrical verse, “She’s half the weight/ She was before;/A clutch of hope/And nothing more.” Finally, “weary-winged” she lands in a place of wild, wading trees, foaming tide, and rippling warmth. She knows she’s home. When two shapes rise to greet her, she and her sisters reunite: “And so their bond/Is forged anew /’Curlee, curlee, Curloo.’”
This emotionally satisfying story and the rich details in the text and fuzzy, feathery illustrations, brings readers on a journey they’re not likely to forget.
In “The Fort” (2020, Page Street Kids, written by Laura Perdew and illustrated by Adelina Lirius, ages 4-8), a prince struts toward his castle dreaming about the royal feast he’s planning. The lively watercolor illustrations show a boy dressed as a prince, striding toward a ramshackle tree fort in the forest.
“But when he crossed over the moat to begin decorating, the prince discovered that the castle was not at all like he’d left it.”
“What’s this? A useless treasure map scribbled on MY invitation!” he shouts.
A pirate has invaded his castle. He cleans up and works to “rid the castle of all things pirate.”
The next day, we see the pirate parading toward her ship (the same ramshackle fort) dreaming of the swashbuckling voyage she’s charting.
“Aaarrrggghhh! An invitation to a silly feast written on MY treasure map?” she snarls when she sees what the prince has done. Like the prince, she is not about to have anyone foil her plans, so she “rids the ship of all things royal.”
Back and forth it goes the next morning and afternoon until the day of the royal feast arrives. As the prince is preparing, he hears a voice outside singing a sea chanty.
Imagine the altercation that follows. Back and forth they go, the prince threatening to put the pirate in the dungeon if she won’t leave, and the pirate threatening to make the prince walk the gangplank if he stays. We wonder how this will resolve.
Then the prince says, talking about the prospect of being on a ship, “I’d rather go to the moon!”
Both prince and pirate eye the fort. “Aye,” the pirate says, “A voyage into space?”
And so, flinging their costumes aside, they convert fort into a spaceship, and off they launch, together, on a new adventure.
Both text and illustrations are wonderfully playful, bright and clever. This story is sure to please.