Children’s Book Blog: Recommended read – The Crystal Mirror and Other Stories
When I started this blog last summer, one of my aims was to bring attention to unusual, beautiful and inspiring books that would otherwise slip under the media radar. With that in mind, my first book recommendation of the year is this crowdfunded collection of stories written by Tim Malnick and illustrated by Katie Green.
What’s the story?
There are five of them: one about a cuddly monster who hugs his assailants into submission, one about an artist who paints his way to freedom, one about a girl who travels the world trying to find out where she belongs, one about a bat who longs to see the sun, and one about a sailor on a quest to find the mythical ‘rainbow bridge of the sea’.
Who’s it for?
Eight to 12-year-olds and anyone in need of a bit of spiritual validation.
Why should I read it?
I’ve been sent lots of books that have come about as a result of crowdfunding, and this is the best to have landed on my doormat so far.
Illustrator Katie Green was eager to provide the pictures for Tim Malnick’s words as soon as she read his stories back in 2005. Unfortunately, indie publishing house Vala couldn’t afford to hire a full-time illustrator for the book. Instead, Katie’s work was funded by 94 members of the public, who donated £8,000 over the course of six months.
And they should be very pleased that they did. The resulting hardback is a rewarding read, full of heart-warming parables and lush illustrations. All of the stories feature someone who is searching for something. And of course it always turns out that whatever it is they are searching for is already present within themselves.
Given the common message of the stories, there was a definite risk that things could get a bit trite. Fortunately, Tim Malnick has a way with words that washes over you in a manner that seems genuinely soothing rather than patronising – quite a tricky feat to pull off. As is always the case with collections of stories, some are stronger than others, though all of them offer food for thought – The Cuddliest Monster in the World and Polly, the Girl Who Was Always Changing are my favourites.
Katie Green’s illustrations lead you on a journey through forests and deserts and oceans and caves, all rendered in rich, deep colours and with a satisfying amount of detail that leaves you scanning each page for hidden treasures before turning to the next.
Above all, what made this book stand out to me is the amount of heart and humour it demonstrates, both in its pages and in the way it came about.
Best character: The cuddliest monster in the world. Apart from being cuddly, he makes a really good cup of tea.
Best line: …and she knew that everything and everyone is always changing from one moment to the next and would never be the same. And although she was sad, still she felt joy that anything was possible and everything was changing.
If I like this, what other books might I like?
Aesop’s Fables, especially this version retold by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Talleen Hacikyan.
Rebecca Davies is a journalist and children’s author and is currently working on a young adult novel set in Hackney. You can read more of her children’s book blogs here
You can follow her on Twitter as @TheStoryMonster
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