First up, this new book from a favorite illustrator of mine, David Small. My girls were enamoured with this book and I loved every part of it, especially the powerful message about girls and to everyone. But I’m getting ahead of myself in the excitement. Let’s take a look at Bloom by Doreen Cronin and David Small, 2016.
Bloom is a fairy. A very unusual fairy who is always dripping with mud and leaving dirt and cracks with her heavy footsteps. She takes care of a castle that is beautiful, growing, and made of glass. But the citizens of the castle become haughty and grow weary of Bloom’s messy trails around their beautiful city. They banish Bloom from their perfect castle.
Bloom sadly grants this wish and disappears to the forest. The castle begins to fall apart. As their perfect home crumbles around them, the king and queen remember the little fairy and seek her out in hopes that her magic can restore the castle to its former glory. Bloom’s response is to set a bucket of mud in front of those who seek her, even the king and queen. They, of course, are appalled and offended. But their home is crumbling, so they decide to send the most ordinary citizen of the entire castle – a tiny, young girl named Genevieve.
Bloom’s response to Genevieve is the same as before—a bucket of mud. But Genevieve is not deterred and quietly inquires what to do with it. And then the magic begins!
This book sent goosebumps across my skin. I felt the magic unfolding as the story progressed. The juxtaposition of beautiful glass created from filthy mud is clever and extremely thought-provoking. But the most powerful message of the book is when the insignificant servant, Genevieve, is nervous to return to the castle with the magical solution to the problem because she fears it will be too questionable, especially coming from ordinary her. Bloom responds that she must, “Tell them there is no such thing as an ordinary girl.”
I cannot deny that I had to pause and collect myself after reading such a power-packed statement to my wide-eyed, completely enthralled, little girls. That is not the end of the story, and it seems it could be a line buried in the midst of the coming muddy conclusion. But in a world where the general society’s sentiment is the very opposite – where gender, beauty, money, and fame are the standard indicators of worth – this book is profound. I love Cronin’s message of hard work, difficult solutions, and humility being the foundation of a beautiful world. And that anyone can use such magic to make change, even the lowliest servant.
David Small’s illustrations are always admirable to me and here, his somewhat soft, detailed drawings are interwoven with moving and highly formatted text. At times it can feel distracting, but overall it adds to the active feel of the book. I love the pencil lines of his art and the structure of his settings and characters.
I have seen some disapproval about the all white cast of characters, and while it wasn’t the first thing I noticed since I myself am obviously reading while white; I do think it is something that could have been thought through a bit more. It is disappointing, however, that that is the main takeaway of such a strong book for some individuals. Yes, we need more diverse books, but diversity isn’t just involved in the colors of skin. Here it comes in a challenge about class and gender, and how that affects the value and humanity of an individual. Let’s not ignore the message completely of a good book because it doesn’t fight every battle at once.
We loved this book. We read it as many times as we could fit in before it was due and on hold at the library. Bloom is a fairy worth seeking out and will be a delight and challenge to those who do.