The New York Times
Giselle Potter's awkwardly beautiful illustrations reflect well the mix of hard reality and jeweled fantasy in Hegi's words. And fortunately, the book avoids being too sweet. Maud Lavin
Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
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.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
I absolutely loved Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River, which is definitely an adult book. Imagine my surprise when I saw this picture book adapted from a part of her phenomenal novel. 'What could they be thinking?' was my first response. What "they" were thinking seems to be that this would make a wonderful story about self-love and acceptance that would appeal to all children. For those of you who don't know Stones from the River, Trudi is a dwarf girl (not the Narnia kind, but a little person) who feels different and alone. One day she goes to the circus and meets Pia, the animal trainer, who is also a dwarf and the first one Pia has ever met. Pia (who has met 104 dwarfs, which is of great comfort to Trudi) counsels Trudi to think of being linked to hundreds of people just like her whenever she is feeling lonely. She also tells her that only Trudi has control over her feelings of being the only one. "'No one but you can change that. Like this.'" Pia wrapped her short arms around herself. Rocking steadily, she smiled." Giselle Potter's illustrations are a perfect match for this book; she truly captures Trudi's and Pia's expressions, the longing on Trudi's face, the twinkle in Pia's eye. I like this book more every time I read it. 2003, Atheneum, Ages 5 to 10.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-Trudi, a dwarf, feels lonely and isolated. She dreams of growing and during the day tries to stretch herself by hanging from door frames and tree limbs. At the circus, she meets Pia, an animal tamer and a dwarf like herself. She volunteers to join her new friend in the ring, and together they tell a story about a wonderful, magical island where only little people live. When Trudi visits the woman in her trailer, Pia talks to her about feeling linked to all the other dwarfs scattered throughout the world, and gives her some practical advice for dealing with the people who surround her. Adapted from Hegi's adult novel Stones from the River (Scribner, 1995), the story is well written and contains some dramatically effective imagery. Hegi creates a great deal of empathy for her characters, marred slightly by the fact that they in turn mock the "big" people: "To Pia, long arms were ugly, long legs unsteady. Tall people looked odd, too far from the ground." It is also unfortunate that the only other dwarf Trudi encounters is a circus performer, reinforcing an old stereotype of where people with non-mainstream physical traits end up. For the most part, however, this sensitive story deals with a subject not frequently found in books for this audience. Potter's signature gouache illustrations have their usual quirky appeal and blend well with the tale.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Excerpts taken nearly verbatim from Hegi�s adult novel, Stones from the River (1994), form a surprisingly cohesive story for children about Trudi, a dwarf girl, who comes to accept herself after meeting a dwarf woman, Pia, at the circus. Pia�s not in the circus because she�s a dwarf; rather, she�s an animal tamer. Upon meeting the glamorous, self-confident Pia, Trudi realizes she has it within her power to define normal; she vows to get furniture that will fit her proportions once she sits in the short-legged chairs in Pia�s trailer. Pia encourages her to speak softly and not always look up, so others will have to bend down to hear her; Pia also tells Trudi that she must find a way to find her place in her own town, rather than run away with Pia and the circus. Potter�s (The Year I Didn�t Go to School, 2002, etc.) colorful gouache illustrations span the realms of reality and the imagination; it�s heartbreaking to see Trudi in real life trying to stretch her limbs by hanging from doorframes or limit the growth of her head by tying scarves around it. But it�s comforting to see what Trudi can now picture: the fantasy island of dwarves where there are no "tall" people, as well as the hundreds of dwarves Pia says she has met worldwide. Hegi has done a remarkable job in cleanly distilling this child-friendly nugget from her wonderfully complex adult examination of a small German town in the years leading up to and during WWII; many of its themes are fascinating, but this one is particularly appropriate for adaptation into a picture book, especially one with illustrations as touching as these. (Picture book. 5-9)
Read an Excerpt
Many nights the dwarf girl, Trudi, fell asleep hoping that her body would stretch itself overnight, that she'd wake up and be the size of other girls her age.
Trudi doesn't know anybody like her. No one with short arms that can't reach coat hooks, or short legs that dangle in chairs; no one small enough to look into her eyes.
No one, that is, until she meets Pia at the circus. Pia is a lion tamer strong and fearless and, most important, a dwarf like Trudi. When Pia asks for a volunteer to step into the ring, Trudi doesn't hesitate. And together, they weave tales of a magical island where people are little and never lonely. After the enchantment ends, Pia shares a secret with Trudi: Feeling that you belong starts with loving yourself.
Adapted from Ursula Hegi's best-selling novel Stones from the River and perfectly paired with Giselle Potter's poignant illustrations this moving story of a girl's search for acceptance captures what it feels like to be different...and then what it feels like to realize that you're not.