Elspeth Lorraine

Book Reviews

March 31, 2023

"Once Upon a Book” By Grace Lin and Kate Messner Illustrated By Grace Lin

We have a beautiful book to love this week! Alice is grumpy and “tired of heavy sweaters and thick socks and staying inside with nothing to do.” Luckily she possesses a magical book that can take her anywhere! She jumps into the pages and the adventures begin! She visits a rainforest that’s warm and damp, a desert that’s hot and windy, an ocean that’s salty and wet… The illustrations here are really the showstopper. We see the plain version of each destination on the pages of her book, but as Alice dives into the book the colors explode and the details shine. Grace has won a Caldecott Honor in the past and this book already has a Kirkus Star so I wonder if she’ll get another nomination? The words are poetic and a perfect match for the paintings in gouache on Arches hot press Watercolor paper. 

Bits and Pieces: Grace Lin and Kate Messner? Who set this duo of talent up? They are both powerhouses in #KidLit and I respect them deeply. I am literally restraining myself from recommending many of their specific works. It…Is… So… Hard… OK I’ll just do it!  Read Fergus and Zeke and the History Smashers series and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Ling and Ting and I HAVE TO STOP. Whew. OK. 

Not Sure About: This is a gentle book with lyrical prose and space for imagination. I think it would be best when a child is in a quiet headspace to give it time to work it’s magic. 

Favorite Part: Alice’s dress is used throughout the story to carry the narrative, but at times her dress seems to be made from words in “Alice and Wonderland”. I may be wrong, but frankly I doubt it. I’ve read that book enough times to consider myself well versed in the language. 

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