In Long's faithful retelling of Ander-sen's tale, the tiny Thumbelina is courted by a succession of appalling suitors—a toad, a beetle, and a pompous mole—but escapes a life of misery with the help of a swallow whose life she saved. Working in meticulously drafted ink and watercolor, Long (Because You Are My Baby) lingers over Thumbelina's flower-petal and dried-leaf wardrobe, paints careful closeups of the swallow she cares for, and gives the spiders who help Thumbelina spin the flax for her wedding trousseau little knit sweaters. (Thumbelina herself is blonde and freckled; her California freshness is perhaps the book's only off note.) The prospect of a suffocating life underground—“Don't be stubborn or I shall bite you with my sharp teeth!” scolds the field mouse who acts as Thumbelina's guardian, irritated at her rejection of a secure marriage—is redeemed by Ander-sen's uncharacteristically happy ending, and Long celebrates it with a spectacular foldout of the wedding. Elsewhere, vertical spreads emphasize Thumbelina's tininess relative to gigantic, nodding poppies and gargantuan cattails. A jewel box of a work whose pages invite lingering. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
The illustrator has made a lush and vivid world for her Thumbelina to inhabit.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
Long is best known for illustrating the spectacularly beautiful picture book An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston. Her watercolors bring out the wonder of the natural world with an almost emotional intensity. Several spreads in her Thumbelina are vertical, requiring children to turn them to get a proper look, emphasizing that the book is as much a beautiful object as a story to get lost in.
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
"...[C]hildren girls in particular will undoubtedly delight in the happy ending where a gatefold reveals the flower-filled wedding of Thumbelina and her prince."
A jewel box of a work whose pages invite lingering.
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
This is a faithful retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The elements of the original are all here: the mother's wish for a child; the child's arrival in a blossom; the pursuit of Thumbelina as a wife by a toad, a beetle, and a mole, respectively; Thumbelina's rescue by a swallow; and her ultimate marriage to a tiny prince. The darker elements of the story are retained, so keep this in mind when sharing it with the very young. This is a wordy text best used with children who have longer attention spans. The major selling point is the lush illustrations. Richly hued watercolors pour over the pages. Most of the pages are horizontally oriented, but three of the spreads are vertical to allow pictures to be framed with flora. The different perspective may make it harder to share the book in a story group. The drawings of Thumbelina are especially interesting. In most pictures, she is a freckle-faced child looking contemporary among the woodland creatures. In other pictures, the freckles vanish, and she seems less like Pippi Longstocking and more like Alice in Wonderland. The final fold-out page, showing Thumbelina's wedding to the prince, will be the focus of little girls who love princess illustrations. There are fairies everywhere, from a female celebrant to a young attendant holding an overflowing buttercup. This page will get lots of handling by young readers. A solid addition to fairy tale collections, and a potential winner in illustration award categories. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
School Library Journal
Gr 2–4—While following the familiar story line of Hans Christian Andersen's original, Long effectively condenses the narrative and gives a contemporary touch to the wording. But what holds the eye is the artist's impressive use of the spreads (sometimes held in vertical mode). Thumbelina's adventures with the beautifully drawn toad, beetles, mouse, mole, and swallow unfold in jewel-like colors, defined textures, and well-imagined details to complete the surroundings. Unfortunately, the tiny girl displays awkward facial expressions and distorted body stances, marring the presentation. Nevertheless, children—girls in particular—will undoubtedly delight in the happy ending where a gatefold reveals the flower-filled wedding of Thumbelina and her prince. Recommended for libraries needing a new copy of the story.—Barbara Elleman, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, MA
Long hews very closely to the Hans Christian Andersen tale, in which a woman longing for a child finds a tiny one in a flower grown from an enchanted barley seed given to her by a fairy. Thumbelina, as she is called, is abducted by a toad but rescued by fish and a butterfly, found ugly by a group of beetles and fed through the bitter winter by a mouse in exchange for telling stories and keeping things tidy. The mouse, however, wants to marry Thumbelina off to her neighbor the mole, who never sees the sun. It is Thumbelina's kindness that saves her; she nurses an injured swallow over the winter, and he in turn saves her, flying her to a warm land where she finds a prince "scarcely larger than herself," who marries her at once. While Thumbelina and the prince look like young adolescents-and earthbound ones at that-rather than fairies or sprites, the fish, birds and, especially, flowers are gorgeous ink-and-watercolor images. The illustrator has made a lush and vivid world for her Thumbelina to inhabit. (Fairy tale. 5-9)