cover image Ten-Word Tiny Tales: To Inspire and Unsettle

Ten-Word Tiny Tales: To Inspire and Unsettle

Joseph Coelho, illus. by Alex T. Smith et al. Candlewick, $18.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-5362-3135-9

Laughter, puzzlement, shivers—10-word morsels from U.K. children’s laureate Coelho, each illustrated by contemporary artists including Raissa Figueroa, Júlia Sardà, and Shaun Tan, evoke a startling panoply of thoughts and feelings. In a collaborate work that recalls The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, some brief stories make dark jokes or suggest grim outcomes (“The Venus flytrap keeps edging closer/ to Grandma’s favorite chair”), while others deliver shots of straight horror (“The thing that slumps/ from the egg has my eyes”) or hint at adventure (“The bear turns the ignition/ on the snowmobile./ It works!”). Various artist contributors take different tacks in visualizing the lines, many developing the concepts. Alongside “My splintered oars are lost/ as my boat speeds onward,” Alex T. Smith imagines three brown-skinned human figures in a pink-hued galaxy, pursued by a shark-shaped steampunk battleship threatening to swallow them all. Thea Lu, meanwhile, adds a sinister seasonality to the pale-skinned figure attending “the X-rays reveal/ writing etched onto/ all of my bones.” Front and back matter detail the book’s beginnings and suggest using the tales as writing prompts, inviting readers to expand, create, and let their pens and imaginations soar. Ages 7–10. (Sept.)