Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Fire on the Mountain

a picture book by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
"In the high and beautiful mountains of Ethiopia there once lived a dreamer named Alemayu. Day after day he wandered over the mountains with his uncle's sheep. While the sheep grazed, he would find a rock somewhere out of the wind where he could play his shepherd's flute and watch the birds and dream of flying."
When a disease sweeps through his village and claims the lives of his parents, Alemayu travels a long way (through "ribbons of mountain paths") to live with his sister. They both work for a very rich, bad-tempered, conceited man.

One day, the pompous master boasts, "Why, once I became lost in the cold mountains at night; but I leaned against my mule until morning, and miraculously I survived to tell of it." He poses an intimidating question to his cowering servants: "Tell me, have you ever heard of anyone else as strong or brave?" Alemayu is the only one to reply:
"Many times when I watched my uncle's sheep, I, too, stayed in the cold air of the mountains throughout the night with only a thin cloak against the cold."
The enraged master challenges Alemayu to spend a night alone in the mountains, with only a "thin shemma" to shield him from the cold. If Alemayu succeeds, he is to receive "four cows and a bag of money besides." If Alemayu fails, the master sneers, "You and your sister will be out of a job. You must leave my house and never come back."

But the next day, when the master injustly claims victory, Alemayu and his sister, and all the other servants, pitch in to beat the selfish man at his own game.

Fire on the Mountain features poetic and deeply moving text by author Jane Kurtz, and beautiful illustrations by artist E. B. Lewis. It's a story about courage and believing in yourself. My mom used to read this book to me all the time when I was little. I loved it so much, I asked her to come into my school and read it to my second grade class during "Book Week."

Fire on the Mountain and its unforgettable young hero will leave you with a warm feeling inside - a comforting sense that things can work out the way they should.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Prince Nautilus

a picture book by Laura Krauss Melmed, illustrated by Henri Sorensen
"In a weathered shack by a windswept shore, two girls lived with their father."
The older sister, Columbine, was very beautiful. "But her heart was as cold as kelp." In contrast, the younger sister, Fiona, was kind and warm-hearted and full of dreams.

One day, while walking along the beach, Fiona finds a shell. When she picks it up, it cries, "Help me, please!" Fiona is amazed to learn that a prince has been trapped inside the shell by an evil wizard.

The sisters set out to free the prince of his spell. Fiona is motivated by purely by the goodness of her heart. Columbine, however, is driven by her shallow goal to marry the prince.

Prince Nautilus is an enchanting fairy tale that takes readers on an exciting adventure filled with magical moments. I remember reading this book with my mom when I was little. Ever since, whenever I see a seashell, I hold it up to my ear in hopes of hearing the voice of a prince who will whisk me away on journeys of my own.

This gorgeous picture book is perfect for all who love adventure. And, the story shows that it's not what's on the outside that counts - it's all about the beauty within.