Sunday, June 16, 2019

Review - Alma and the Beast

Alma and the Beast
by Esmé Shapiro
Date: 2019
Publisher: Tundra Books (NY)
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 44
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Alma's beautiful, hairy world is turned upside down by the arrival of a stranger. From the utterly original imagination of the author-illustrator of Ooko comes a story about celebrating differences and making new friends. For fans of Where the Wild Things Are and Wild.

Alma lives happily in her hairy world, where she can braid the trees, comb the grass, pet the roof and feed her plumpooshkie butterfly. Until one day . . . a hairless, button-nosed beast appears in the garden! At first Alma is scared but when she realizes the beast is lost and misses her hairless home, Alma offers to help her find her way back. As the two take a fantastical journey through the red-headed woods and the bearded mushroom glen to the beast's bald abode, they discover that they are much more alike than different.

This quirky and charming story about friendship, tolerance and perspective invites readers into a surreal, fantastical world that evokes Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are and The Lorax.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is definitely an imaginative book, set in parallel worlds that are both like and unlike our own.

Despite what you might expect from the title and cover illustration, Alma is, in fact, the "beast" (at least, from a human point of view). This is where I ran into a bit of trouble. The little girl is the beast from Alma's point of view, and since that's the point of view where the book starts, the little girl is continually referred to as "the beast". Now, maybe it's just me, but every time I saw that terminology, I thought of Alma... so I had to continually correct myself as I was reading the story. I get that the beastliness is a matter of perspective, but my brain just didn't want to cooperate.

I really like Alma's world, though, where everything is hairy. In fact, that's how she spends her days: braiding the trees, combing the grass, and petting the roof ("as one does when the days grow chilly and pink"). The parallels between the worlds are cute, too, showing that even though we have differences, we also have similarities.

I think the artwork in this one is going to be hit or miss for a lot of people. The colour palette is interesting, and there are plenty of things to look at, but the style is very distinct and I wonder if some kids might find it a bit creepy (I think I would have as a young reader).

But I do like the message about differences and similarities and perspective. It's a cute book, if you find you're a fan of the illustrations.

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.33 out of 5

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