Tag: short stories

The Rich Beauty of The Crystal Mirror by Tim Malnick & Katie Green

The Rich Beauty of The Crystal Mirror by Tim Malnick & Katie GreenThe Crystal Mirror on November 13, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Picturebooks
Pages: 96
Goodreads
four-stars

Suggested age range: 6 and up

I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Book: This is a delightful and thought provoking collection of beautifully illustrated stories that will keep readers thinking long after the last word is read. Just the kind of book we at Spirit of Children’s Literature appreciate! Not only are the textual parables enchanting and rich, but the visual stories provide a true feast of saturated colors, gorgeous backgrounds and borders, and fantastic details.

Here are just a few of my notes about several of the stories.

The collection opens with “The Cuddliest Monster in the World,” which might seem silly at first, but illuminates rich themes about getting lost on our way, compassion, and the strength of loving others. I adored the ending of this one! “The Master Painter” lauds the power of creativity and the endless beauty of the world around us. What happens when that is hidden from us? “Polly, the Girl Who Was Always Changing” reminds readers of just how tricky it can be to navigate the intricacies our own developing identity, and this quest to “finding oneself.” There are intriguing ideas in these tales.

Spirituality in The Crystal Mirror: Rich, spiritual themes abound in this collection! This isn’t a religious set of stories, however; these tales cross cultural and religious boundaries, reflecting the beauty of ideas that are relevant across people groups and countries. Malnick and Green showcase themes that young and old readers alike can understand such as searching for one’s identity, longing for the unknown and unexplored, or approaching the world with the freshness and vision of a child.

Who Should Read This Book: Both young and older readers alike would appreciate and find delight and wisdom in the pages of these stories. I think this book would especially be fabulous as a shared book or as a read aloud with a class. The stories beg to be discussed, and I could even see extension and arts-based response activities revolving around the text.

The Final Word: The Crystal Mirror is a book I’ll be returning to again. There were some stories that I though, “Wait! I want more!”, but at the same time, the gaps left open could generate interesting discussion. I see myself sharing it with young readers of all ages, and it would work well as a read aloud. Its visual aspect opens up the potential for all kinds of arts-based activities, and let me tell you—these illustrations are amazing! Tim Malnick and Katie Green have put together a gorgeous book with stories that don’t always get tied up neatly, but still work. I’d have to say my favorite story is “The Story of Oswald Bat.” Go check it out. Thank you, Vala Publishing, for sharing this book with me!

You can check out the website, www.thecrystalmirror.co.uk

four-stars
What Katie Read

Storying Compassion: Bambert’s Book of Missing Stories (2008) by Reinhardt Jung

Storying Compassion: Bambert’s Book of Missing Stories (2008) by Reinhardt JungBambert's Book of Missing Stories by Reinhardt Jung
Published by Random House Children's Books on March 25th 2009
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Short Stories, Translated Literature
Pages: 128
Goodreads
five-stars

ONE DAY, MR. Bambert, a sweet but shy man, decides to send 11 stories out into the world. He attaches them to little hot-air balloons and lets them go on windy nights with a letter asking that whoever finds them send them back. Wherever the stories are returned from is where they will be set. The 11th story is blank—Bambert hopes it will write itself. Slowly the stories come back, with postmarks from all over the world, including one from the past. All that’s left is the last one, the one that has to write itself. . . . In this magical little story with a twist, the power of kindness, stories, and hope is woven together to create a soul-warming, poignant tale that readers will want to read again and again.Praise for Dreaming in Black and White:“A short, quiet, yet memorable, novel that challenges its audience with questions worth asking.”—BooklistFrom the Hardcover edition.

Suggested age range: 9 and up

“A deep sigh stopped him in his tracks, a sigh which seemed to come from the rock itself” (p. 20).

Some books for young people have the potential to stir in readers a greater sense of compassion for others. A contemporary illustrated edition of Bambert’s Book of Missing Stories (2008) by Reinhardt Jung beautiful demonstrates how stories can generate social sensitivity and alert readers to the importance of noticing the unnoticed. Based on my own experience reading this incandescent collection of short illustrated stories, I can attest to the way in which the book can elicit a deep response from the reader. Each story illuminated a deep idea or truth that was implicit within the tale, but became clear and real to me, the reader.

Emma Chichester Clark’s illustrations add an important dimension to the stories by depicting these multi-layered moments visually. The sometimes odd Bambert, a writer who “saw the world through the eyes of poets and writers,” lives alone. He enjoys looking out his attic window at night, “holding quiet conversations with the moon, for the moon, which seemed to know as many stories as Bambert himself, acted as a mirror in which he could see the world.” It is through writing his stories that he finds joy.  He ultimately decides to send the eleven stories from his Book of Wishes, via paper hot-air balloons out into the world, so that they can become true in a sense:

“Making a story come true would mean letting it out of the book to go off into the world and look for its own setting, searching for cities, riverbanks, sea shores: places where it could come to life in real human beings, against real landscapes and within real walls.”

Though Bambert keeps his characters the same in the stories, he allows the settings to be shaped by the location where they land. He sends the tales in hopes that those who discover them will situate the stories within a unique setting and return them to Bambert. There is space for a twelfth story, but Bambert is waiting for this story’s shape to emerge. When the cold weather finally sets in, Bambert releases the stories and “was happier than he had ever been in his whole life.” It is several seasons later, however, before Bambert receives the first story back from another country—and at this point Reinhardt Jung’s book delivers Bambert’s rich tales to the reader.

Certainly, Jung’s characterization of Bambert invites readers to consider this melancholy man’s point of view, a perspective we might not normally take the time to consider in the busyness of our own lives. Bambert’s sense of humanity is finely tuned; it is an awareness deep with concern, compassion, and at many times, hope.

His first story returns from Ireland, and focuses on a whale returning to the bay to thank the grandson of the man who rescued him as a young whale from certain death. It is a beautiful event when the boy sees “an ancient eye” staring at him out of what he think is a huge rock. The boy takes water from the sea, and pours it “carefully over the open eye like salty tears, to keep it from drying up in the wind blowing off the land.” The whale then begins to communicate with the boy through his thoughts, and the boy hears, “I was looking for you—you who are different from the others, my friend—and now I’ve found you.” It was a hundred years earlier that the boy’s grandfather rescued the whale in the middle of the night, and returned him to the sea, to safety, from his hunters. Now old, the whale assumes the grandson is the grandfather and says,

“I have looked for you ever since that day. You haven’t changed at all, but I have grown old. I wanted to see you once again, to thank you and say goodbye.”

It is a beautiful story—the tale of how a child reached out to a creature in its childlike state, and saved it from those who only valued the life of a whale for what it could give. It is the heart of the grandfather as a child that we applaud, and we discover his compassion through his grandson’s interaction with the whale. Interestingly, the character of the grandfather does not appear directly; his character emerges indirectly through the memory of the whale and the boy’s father’s description at the conclusion of the story.

This first tale of Bambert’s reminds us of the importance of respecting and caring for those creatures with which we live on the earth. My own spirituality has generated in me a love for animals and for the natural world—a love that urges me to treat them with respect. Though children, like adults, can be cruel towards the natural world and its creatures, many children seem to have a clear sense that we must act with love. This is how the boy in “The Eye in the Sea” operates, and how his grandfather before him responded. In this way, the tale reflects another important idea—that adults can transfer their own love and concern for the earth to their children. And this is powerful.

five-stars
What Katie Read
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