cover image The Mermaid’s Purse

The Mermaid’s Purse

Patricia Polacco. Putnam, $17.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-399-16692-1

Through lyrical writing and expressive images, Polacco (The Blessing Cup) returns to recurring themes from her books: the importance of family, community, and reading. Polacco again draws on her family history—basing her heroine, Estella, on her own grandmother—while also giving this down-home tale a mystical undertone. When Estella is born during a thunderclap, protected by a caul or “Mermaid’s Purse” (“a birth membrane to some, a miracle to others”), a midwife predicts that she will be showered with God’s blessings “like a spring rain.” As it turns out, Estella is “drawn to storms, and storms to her.” An insatiable reader, the precocious and charismatic girl saves a herd of sheep and the life of a friend using knowledge gleaned from her vast collection of books, housed in a library that neighbors build for her. The community again unites to bring about a satisfying finale after a tornado destroys Estella’s home and library. Robust pencil-and-marker illustrations bridge the narrative’s fluctuating moods, portraying Estella’s triumph and heartbreak with assurance. Ages 5–8. (Oct.)