Review of Paradise Sands

H Paradise Sands Paradise Sands
by Levi Pinfold; illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Candlewick    40 pp.    g
11/22    978-1-5362-1282-2    $18.99

Pinfold (The Black Dog, rev. 10/12) pre­sents another surreal picture book, this one with shades of such folktales as the Grimms’ “The Six Swans” and Andersen’s “The Wild Swans.” Driving through the desert to pick up their mother (from what looks like a medical care facility), four siblings leave the main road to stop in the heat to pick flowers for her. The three older brothers recite rhymes from their youth (“White roses we follow / toward Teller’s Hollow”). Despite their sister’s warning, the thirsty brothers enter a stark, silent building in search of a drink of water, where they fall under the spell of a giant mystical lion, the Teller, and are transformed into dolphins. Only the resistance and tenacity of the sister, the youngest, who endures a battle of wills with the Teller, allow the siblings to escape. Themes of determination, family traditions, and love are manifested in the words and images. The washout-desert palette in the hauntingly beautiful realistic mixed-media illustrations creates an eerie sense of foreboding (carried through to the ambiguous ending) that cues readers into the otherworldliness of the story. Three consecutive double-page spreads depicting a sumptuous banquet (the sister’s charge is to eat or drink nothing for three days) are especially mesmerizing. Masterful use of light, spot color, and scale mark this as a significant piece of bookmaking; pair with early Van ­Allsburg titles such as The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter
Eric Carpenter is the school librarian at Fred A. Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia.

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