A Thousand Glass Flowers

Do you ever sit with an object and think about where it’s been and where it’s going? I like to do this with my vintage beads. I run the strands through my fingers, hold them up to the light, and think about the artists who made the tiny, precious spheres, long ago. When I sit with my beads, I think about the journey they made to get to me. 

A Thousand Glass Flowers: Marietta Barovier and the Invention of the Rosetta Bead celebrates the life and ingenuity of artisan Marietta Barovier, one of the first women allowed to open a workshop in 15th-century Murano, Italy, and the creator of the famous “rosetta bead.” It’s important to note that A Thousand Glass Flowers is a fusion of fiction and nonfiction. Evan Turk creatively fills in the blanks of Barovier's story, and his illustrations are a careful and meticulous dedication to a specific time and place.

Before I even realized what this book was about, I jumped at the chance to review it here. This was due to its cover alone; its design is well-balanced with deep, warm colors. The book’s jacket depicts Marietta Barovier in the center, holding her precious bead. I love the Art Nouveau-esque halo that surrounds her and the use of embossing and spot gloss on the paper. The book jacket looks and feels great. The book is a large trim size that’s perfect for illustrating the wide canals and grandeur of 15th-century Italian architecture.

Right off the bat, the ornate design of the endpapers — rich purples with gold gouache — hint at the beauty to come. The art of this book was created with watercolor, colored pencil, oil pastel, and gouache. Turk uses the motif of the sun throughout the story; the warm, glowing sun reminds Marietta of her love for the blazing heat of the furnace. Turk’s understanding of color and his use of light and dark is masterful. He uses dark shadows to emphasize the yellow glow of Marietta’s family’s furnaces, off-limits to girls like her, though ever beckoning. Turk’s linework is both heavy and light, well-balanced with bursts of color and depth.

Turk gives special attention to hands, eyes, and eyebrows in his illustrations and skillfully captures the physicality of glassblowing. I enjoy the spread of young Marietta (eyebrows raised and unsure) wrapped in her father’s arms, twirling the pipe with her tiny hands next to her father’s huge, gentle ones, and the spread of Marietta as an adult, creating the rosetta bead, her hands confident and skilled.

My absolute favorite spread of the book is toward the end. Marietta holds a beautiful long strand of her beads, arms spread wide across both pages. Her skin is a soft glow of orange and yellow, and she gazes at her art with satisfaction, warmth, and pride. She is surrounded by an intricate gold sun.

[Read the Horn Book Magazine review of A Thousand Glass Flowers here.]

A Thousand Glass Flowers is an intimate and beautiful story of an artist’s relationship with her father and what blossoms when she’s given the ability to grow into her talent. I’m happy that Marietta Barovier’s story fell into the talented hands of Evan Turk. I’m also very grateful to know Barovier's name, work, and legacy — and I hope that children will enjoy her story as much as I did.


Alia Jones
Alia Jones

Alia Jones is a Library Assistant at the University of Cincinnati Science and Engineering Libraries. She was a member of the 2020 Caldecott Award Committee and is currently on the 2022 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Jury.

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