Abel’s Island by William Steig (J)

Abels Island

Abel’s Island    

William Steig (Juvenile Fiction)

Abelard Hassam di Chirico Flint, of the Mossville Flints, is a very pampered mouse who likes things “just so”.  Living off the wealth of his mother, he shares a comfortable house with his wife, Amanda, and lives a life that is predictable, satiable, and pleasant.  But on one particular day, during a perfectly nice picnic, Abel’s life is turned upside down when a sudden hurricane separates him from everyone he loves and all that he knows.  Lost and alone, can one small mouse—who has been surrounded by ease and extravagance all his life—conjure up enough wit and grit to survive?

I grew up adoring William Steig’s Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and so I was delighted to see that Abel’s Island shared the same valuable moral:  possessions can never equal the riches and wealth provided by family.  Abel’s cup overflows with friends, family, and fortune, but when circumstances place him in a life-or-death situation, he begins to question his life and his worth and wonders if there might be a bigger being in charge: “Was it just an accident that he was here on this uninhabited island?  Abel began to wonder.  Was he being singled out for some reason: was he being tested?  If so, why?”  All of us, at one time or another, have felt like Abel.  That just when life seems to be going along swimmingly, the rug suddenly is pulled right out from under us.  Is it because we’ve become too complacent?  Too comfortable?  Or is it simply a reminder of how fragile and temporary life is and that every minute should be cherished and savored and never taken for granted.

I love books for young readers that reinforce the idea that there is strength, resilience, and courage in each of us and these things are waiting for just the right opportunity to emerge.  A. A. Milne passed away twenty years before Abel was born on paper, but the words of encouragement that he offered to a bear full of stuff and fluff could very well have been meant for Abel as well: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  In the end, Abel proved that he WAS quite able after all.  Silly old mouse.

Rating: 5/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com 

 

A Finder’s Magic by Philippa Pearce (J)

A Finders Magic

A Finder’s Magic  

Philippa Pearce (Juvenile Fantasy)

Till goes to bed in despair and wakes up desperate.  So deep is his desperation that you can see it in his dreams.  And one night, someone does see it.  That someone is a Finder.  A Finder that promises Till that he will help him find his beloved lost dog, Bess (for it is her absence that leads to all this unfortunate desperateness).  But finding Bess isn’t easy.  Clues need to be found, witnesses questioned, and leads followed.  Leads that point to a stranger, a thin line of light, and a nursery rhyme.

This book has a rather interesting backstory.  Pearce wrote this book for her two grandsons and it was illustrated by the children’s other grandmother, Helen Craig.  The main character’s name is an anagram of the two grandson’s names put together (Nat and Will) giving us Tillawn or Till for short.  Unfortunately, Pearce died before Craig began illustrating this book and was therefore deprived of seeing the beautiful book that their combined efforts produced.

Pearce gives young readers a wonderful tale of magic, mystery, and mischief.  The story deals with issues of loss and trust and tackles both with charm and humor.  After the book is finished, parents might want to remind their young reader that this is a fantasy book and, under ordinary circumstances, it is never appropriate to go running off with a stranger, especially one who offers to help you find your dog.

In the end, through all the questioning and searching and worrying, Finder gives Till something that replaces his desperation.  He gives him hope and although it’s not what Till wants, it’s what he needs and at that moment, hope is enough.

Rating: 4/5

* Book cover image attributed to www.goodreads.com