18. Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver and illustrated by Kei Acedera.
This charming fairytale for this economically-conscious age was the perfect segue into the writing and reading class for fourth and fifth graders that I begin teaching tomorrow.
There's this certain mood and tone, a particular cadence and use of words that has become prevalent in children's literature and that I absolutely adore. It's almost a kiddie version of my beloved nineteenth-century narrator. Except a wise-cracking, cynical-but-I-still-believe-in-magic kind of kid narrator. I recognize it from classics like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lemony Snicket's books, and Catherynne M. Valente took it to linguistical heights with The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
Liesl & Po begins:
"On the third night after the day her father died, Liesl saw the ghost.
It was as though the darkness was a sheet of raw cookie dough and someone had just taken a cookie-cutter and made a child-sized shape out of it."
Can't you just see the child-shaped cookie-cutter assaulting the raw cookie dough air?
Well. I can. The distribution of resources is a fascinatingly central issue to the book, and I do wonder if such a focused tale of haves and have-nots would have occurred in a different era.
In any case, the characters are endearing, the plot a bit twee, and the illustrations are magnificent. I chuckled to myself, remembering that when I was a kid, I groaned every time I saw an illustration. In my mind, it was a waste of a page and also cut down on the number of pages that I had really read. But the illustrations here are incorporated into the story in such a lovely manner, and not only that, but add little wordless details to the story. I am a sucker for books that don't talk down to kids, and furthermore introduce them to Words of Beautiful Importance.
The only word for this book as a complete product, as both author and illustrator recognize is: ineffable.
Highly recommended for children, especially between the ages of eight and eleven. Also recommended for all adult lovers of children's literature and anyone who just needs a refreshing break of a read.