„The Blue Bird’s Palace“ by Orianne Lallemand

Sometimes life just happens – and your blog is deserted for weeks… But no matter how stressful life is, grabbing a good book always is always like a short vacation. I really enjoy our evening story time. Transferring some if Finja’s books into their temporary home aka “moving boxes” almost hurt, although I know we’ll unpack them again in just a week. 🙂

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To make up for the smaller selection of books available outside of our countless book boxes we read some new ones. Finja now reached the age where she loves fairytales and especially everything about Disney. Because, let’s be honest: Which girl doesn’t? To achieve a balance, I try to incorporate some unusual fairytales from all over the world in our daily reading routine. Sometimes really good tales are hard to come by, especially when you are searching for strong female role models. Luckily, there are some stories with strong female protagonists – Finja was fascinated by the real-life-stories of “Goodnight stories for rebel girls” by Elena Favilly.

But heroines are not always born strong, brave and kind – sometimes they have to grow into their roles. During the last days, I fell in love with the modern version of a Russian fairytale. „The Blue Bird’s Palace“ by Orianne Lallemand was published by one of my favorite publishers, Barefoot Books.

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The magically illustrated volume tells the story of Natasha. Natasha has a wonderful childhood in the Blue Forest, spending her time picking apples, baking bread and making sweet jam with her mom. Life changes when Natasha’s mother dies during an especially cold winter. Natasha’s dad buries himself in work to forget about his wife’s death. To make up for it, he spoils Natasha with everything she wishes for. Only the tastiest food is good enough for her. She enjoys only the finest fabric and the best stories. At age sixteen, the blessed girl is beautiful, but moody. She wants more and more – and especially: A bigger, better house with more rooms. But her father refuses to leave the cottage he shared with his wife. Natasha gets consumed by her own fury. When an old woman with a blue bird offers her a wish in exchange for a tasty fruit in her basket, Natasha desires a palace. But “not just any old palace, though, a magical one. One where I can invent all kinds of different rooms whenever I like.” Natasha’s wish is granted, but it doesn’t turn out as she likes… Natasha will not be able to leave her magical palace. For some time, the girl entertains herself with inventing new rooms. She wanders the wonderful palace and is at easy with the life of a princess.

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But after some time, Natasha gets bored with inventing new rooms. She misses her dad, the orchard the grew up in – and finds back to a simpler life again. “There would be no more dressing-up sessions; no more walks through her splendid rooms; no more magnificent feasts.” The magical palace shrinks to the size of a cottage. When Natasha discovers she’s able to leave the palace as a blue bird at night, she spends her days baking bread, leaving the loaves on the doorsteps of the poorest cottages. Will Natasha’s kindness be repaid? Will she be able to return to her father?

What I loved about “The Blue Bird’s Palace” is Natasha’s development from a selfish, spoiled girl to a thoughtful and kind woman. The story can be a reminder for us parents not to spoil our kids too much – but it can also be a story of growing-up and achieve happiness with being at ease with ourselves. I didn’t expect Finja to follow the modern interpretation of a Russian folk tradition. The tale is longer than most fairytales, there are not fairy godmothers or sparkles involved. But Finja listened carefully, asked questions about Natasha, her moodiness and her development to a kind young woman. Actually, she just snatched the book away while I was reviewing it, quickly retiring into her room to browse through the pages!

Barefoot Books recommends “The Blue Bird’s Palace” for age 5 to 10, but the book offers a complex story and is a wonderful gift for adult readers, too.

There is just one word left for the illustrations by Carole Henaff: Beautiful! The acrylic artwork seems to be inspired by The Arabian Nights and other classics, uniting the classical fairytale illustration with a radiant, more modern approach.

“The Blue Bird’s Palace” is a wonderful tale for children and adults every age – from “twonagers” to teenagers to adults 🙂

“The Blue Bird’s Palace”
written by Orianne Lallemand
illustrated by Carole Henaff
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Barefoot Books
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-1846868856

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„Gus’s garage“ by Leo Timmers

There are some books we don’t read once or twice, but three of four times – per evening. „Gus’s garage” by Leo Timmers is one of them.

Guss-Garage-cover-LROne of the reasons: Main character Gus is instantly likeable. The friends pig stores lots of curious things in his garage. Curious children will discover metal bins, an old fridge, a goldfish glass, a bathtub, some old piping, an old grandpa chair. What will he use them for? The next page brings the answer: Rhino Rico is complaining about the too small seat of his scooter. Gus has the answer: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Soon a happy Rhino leaves Gus’s garage on a completely remodeled scooter, sitting comfortable on his newly designed grandpa-chair-seat.

Will Gus find a way to help his other customers? Giraffe Gina is freezing her long neck off in the chilly air, while penguin Mrs. P “needs refrigeration”. Walrus Walter on the other hand is suffering what is, in his opinion, a too dry car… When the last customer of the day, rabbit Henry, is speeding away in his newly tuned up car, there is nothing more to do for Gus. Except: Inventing something for his own comfort…

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Leo Timmer’s story about going out of your way to help others features friendly Gus, who creates unique gismos to help his customers. Gus uses old garbage to invent something new, tailored to his friends’ needs. The colorful pictures by the author show how the pile of square parts in front of Gus’s garage slowly shrinks with each customer. Curious children will re-discover the abandoned parts in the newly renovated cars of Gus’s friends! The rhyming text is catching and Finja loved to read it with me: “Let’s see. I have some bits and bobs. This goes with that. There. Just the job!” Although the book is recommended for children age 5 to 7, it is a fun read for younger children, too.

Leo Timmers is one of Belgium’s most popular children books authors and we are glad Gecko Press brought „Gus’s garage“ to the US!

More information:
“Gus’s garage”
written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Gecko Press
ISBN-13: 978-1776570928