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Crumbs (Phil Cummings, illus by Shane DeVries, Scholastic)

This quiet little tale has the feel of a Pixar short film crossed with a simple folk parable from a bygone era. Young Ella, who has nothing to give to a little one-legged bird begging for food, watches someone with even less—a man with ‘prickle-bush whiskers, wild hair and his life in a bag’—find crumbs for the bird. In turn, Ella and her father share a meal with the man, and kindness prevails, showing that even the smallest gesture holds value. Aesthetically, the digital illustrations in Crumbs create an almost tangible mood of an icy, foggy, busy city where ‘the world [is] in winter shadow’ and passers-by hurry along in clouds of their own concerns. But Ella is open to the world, connecting with both the bird and the man, and the peaceful yet rich language parallels her wide-eyed and gentle youthful compassion—supported by her father’s unspoken empathy. Crumbs is not a groundbreaking book but it’s a sweet one, and suitable for the target audience of children four years and older. It would provide a lovely calm interlude in an energetic child’s busy day.

Anica Boulanger-Mashberg, an editor and writer, is a bookseller at The Hobart Bookshop.


Category: Junior Reviews