Review of The Little Books of the Little Brontës

The Little Books of the Little Brontës The Little Books of the Little Brontës
by Sara O’Leary; illus. by Briony May Smith
Primary    Tundra    40 pp.
10/23    9780735263697    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780735263703    $10.99

From its first words and images, this book about the young Brontës invites readers into the cozy home and companionship of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. It patently conveys the pleasure both author and illustrator take in these children and their prodigious imaginations as storytellers and bookmakers. In neat, compact sentences—impressively so given the information conveyed—O’Leary tells of the Brontës’ home and pastimes, and of the flowering of their little books of fantasy stories inspired by the gift of wooden toy soldiers. At the same time, Smith’s art offers pictures in which to lose oneself, ranging from the edgeless, vast slopes of the moors to detailed interiors seen through windows and panels. The effect is that of looking into a dollhouse, complete with a bird’s-eye view of a table set with food and crockery, an effect exceptionally expressive of the subject matter. O’Leary leaps briefly to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne as successful adult novelists, but she returns to their childhood almost at once; like them, you too could make a little book with a story, she tells us, and here is how to do it. A joyous, beguiling introduction to these Victorian writers. Appended with an author’s note and a timeline, in addition to “How to Make Your Own Little Book.”

From the November/December 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.

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