The Carousel by Liz Rosenberg, Illustrations by Jim LaMarche
Suggested age range: 6 and up
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 32 pages)
Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Borrowed from a family member
The Book: One magical, snowy evening, a girl and her sister are walking home, and they happen to pass by a tent covering a broken carousel. They hear noises, and realize the horses are very much alive. Thus begins a fantastic journey for the two sisters in which they fly through the air on these beautiful carousel creatures. When it is apparent the horses are a little wilder than normal, the protagonist’s sister says, “ ‘They’re wild because they are broken.’” The girls then use their mother’s toolkit in an attempt to fix what is broken in the carousel itself.
The illustrations are beautiful, “acrylic washes with colored pencil on Arches watercolor paper.” The result is a stunning landscape picturebook featuring many “almost” double-page spreads with text in a column on either the left or right page.
Spirituality in The Carousel: The fantasy in The Carousel plays a role in one of the spiritual layers of the story. For example, the reader is not explicitly told what makes the carousel horses come alive for the girls, but perhaps it is the faith and the girls’ openness to wonder that engineers the magic of their evening. The first few pages (in both illustration and text) position the girls as those who have expectation and hope for surprises.
The author does not explicitly go into the fact that the girls’ mother is either passed away or absent, but there are enough hints to assume this. The girls’ meeting with their father at the end of the book portrays a close family unit, in spite of the missing mother. In this way, there is a spirituality of connectedness that is reflected in the story. The mother plays a role in the narrative, even though she is absent, for it is her toolbox that allows the girls to fix the carousel.
Hope, magic, and restoration are three words I would use the describe the spirituality of the tale.
Exploring this Book with Readers: As a read aloud, this book is perfect for elementary or even middle school. If teachers wanted to incorporate a nonfiction aspect to the reading experience, students could research famous carousels and share their own experience riding them. Teachers and parents could invite readers to search the pictures for details undetected at first glance. A cool art activity: Each student draws a picture of his/her ideal carousel horse. This could be done with actual paper or on an iPad/laptop. Students must think of two abilities a rider of that particular horse would have.
The Final Word: I appreciated the magic of this story and the atmospheric illustrations—especially the way the pictures spread across the pages in a landscape format. However, there were quite a few gaps in the story that I wanted to see filled. On the other hand, the intent was that this book included such wide open opportunities for readers to make speculations.