cover image THE PEA BLOSSOM


Amy Lowry Poole, . . Holiday, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8234-1864-0

Poole (The Ant and the Grasshopper ) sets her spare retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's story in the outskirts of Beijing. She portrays five peas, with expressive faces and arms, that grow in a pod, dreaming big dreams. "I'm going to get out of here and fly up to the sun," says the first pea; the second wishes for the moon, and the next two want to dine with the Emperor. Only the fifth accepts whatever destiny is dealt him ("I shall go wherever it is that I am meant to"). Along comes a boy with a peashooter and each gets his wish (after a fashion). The fifth pea lands on the windowsill of the tiny home of a poor woman and her ailing daughter. In the spring, the pea begins to grow into a plant. As the girl lovingly tends the vine, she gains hope and strength, and starts to heal. Poole's retelling leaves out some of the tangential details of the original (e.g., the death of the girl's younger sister) and wisely emphasizes the concurrent flowering of the girl and pea blossom. Uncluttered illustrations evoke traditional Chinese scrolls: the off-white rice paper provides a textured background for people, plants and animals rendered in soft line strokes in earth tones. A sense of quiet humor and wonder pervade this story: insects and birds appear fascinated by the events; and gouache outlines transform a treetop into a host of birds, cats and squirrels. Those who read the author's note may well wish to turn to Jane Yolen's picture-book biography of Andersen (reviewed below). Poole's verbal and visual eloquence brings a timeless tale to a new generation. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)