cover image TRUDI & PIA


Ursula Hegi, , illus. by Giselle Potter. . Atheneum/Schwartz, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84683-0

In this poignant story, adapted from a scene in Hegi's novel Stones from the River, a dwarf girl meets a woman of a similar size. Trudi often tries to stretch her arms and legs, and she wishes someone "would look at her with joy—not with curiosity." She cannot reach ordinary chairs and coat hooks without standing on a stack of books, and no family members or friends are mentioned or pictured. Trudi feels forsaken until she attends a circus and sees Pia, a diminutive animal tamer in a glittery blue gown: "Her short body moved quickly, lightly, and when her whip snapped around the elephants' massive feet, they bowed their knees for her." When Pia asks for a volunteer, Trudi steps forward. Pia is surprised to see another person like herself, "but then she laughed with delight," giving Trudi the welcome she longs for. While guiding a parrot to fly about them both, Pia prompts Trudi to describe "the magic island I call home. The island of the little people, where everyone is our height." After the show, Trudi summons a new, Pia-esque pluckiness, and visits the performer in her cozy blue trailer, where the furniture is all built to scale. Trudi confides that Pia is the first person she's ever met that's like her, and asks Pia if she has met others in her travels: "I have met one hundred and four, to be exact," Pia replies. Trudi no longer feels alone. Potter's (The Year I Didn't Go to School) folksy gouaches with their ethereal images suit this tale of a propitious encounter. She spotlights Trudi in the circus crowd and aptly captures the heroine's growing confidence. Although Pia's solitary circus career might give people pause (what will Trudi's future be?), Hegi handles the dicey subject of physical difference with great understanding and literary panache. Ages 4-9. (Mar.)