Alma and the Beast by Esmé Shapiro

Review by Emily Anctil

Tundra, Penguin Random House, 3 September 2019

44 pages, hardcover, $21.99 CAD, 978-0-73526-396-3

Ages 3-7, Grades Pre K-2

Picture Book

Alma and the Beast is a wonderfully executed picture book about finding similarities in those that seem different from you. When Alma wakes up, her day begins just like any other day. She spends her morning braiding the trees, combing the grass, and feeding her pet plumpooshkie butterfly. Alma is content in her world—a world filled with flowing hair and fantastical landscapes—until she comes across a hairless beast in her garden. The beast is lost, so Alma decides to help her retrace her steps. On their way, Alma and the beast discover that they share far more than they initially think.

Shapiro’s text and illustration work seamlessly to bring Alma’s evocative settings and landscapes to life. Colors and patterns are used liberally and to great effect in the artwork. Readers will find themselves immersed in Alma’s world, journeying from one place to the next. The illustration also reflects the thematic elements of the text. Shapiro’s use of symmetry is particularly notable. One spread has readers turning the book from side to side in order to read the text on each page—a fun element that becomes all the more poignant upon the story’s conclusion.

Owing to its thoughtful and imaginative design, Alma and the Beast is an excellent, profound, and highly entertaining picture book with a meaningful message at its heart. Parents, educators, and librarians will find it a valuable addition to their bookshelves.

Emily is a graduate of UBC’s Master of Arts in Children’s Literature program and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. Reading picture books is her favourite thing to do. You can find more of her reviews at her YouTube channel, Page Turns.

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