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A Single Pearl


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About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli teaches linguistics at Swarthmore College and is the author of numerous books for young readers of all ages, including Alligator Bayou, an ALA Top Ten Book and winner of the Parents' Choice Gold Award; The King of Mulberry Street, a Sydney Taylor Award Honor book; and Treasury of Greek Mythology, an ALA Notable book. She lives in Pennsylvania.Jim LaMarche has illustrated several acclaimed picture books, including Albert by Donna Jo Napoli, and Little Oh and The Rainbabies, both by Laura Krauss Melmed. He wrote and illustrated The Raft. He lives in Santa Cruz, California, where the ocean continually inspires his work.Previous Books: Mogo, the Third Warthog, The Earth Shook, Ugly, Pink Magic, Albert


A potentially charming tale about a perfect pearl that takes form from a simple grain of sand is laden with heavy-handed life lessons. The grain becomes embedded in an oyster and is slowly coated with protective layers until a diver brings it up, discovers the beautiful pearl it has become and sets it on a journey that carries it home to a lovely young princess. The tale might have succeeded as a story of how the pearl became the imperial jewel of Persia, the nominal plot, but Napoli missteps by endowing the grain of sand with deep emotions of hopelessness and helplessness and, eventually, love and joy. The message that each person has the ability to change and grow is clearly intended to be uplifting and encouraging. However, all the changes to the grain of sand come about naturally: It does not make itself into a pearl; that outcome is accomplished by the oyster and time. Moreover, a pearl has no value beyond what humans place upon it. The princess loves the pearl, certainly with no thought to the grain of sand at its center. LaMarche's lovely illustrations, rendered in acrylic paint and colored pencil in a palette of pink, purple and turquoise, with appropriately luminescent pearls, transcend the weaknesses of the text. A well-meaning tale is overwhelmed by an over-the-top attempt at inspiration. (Picture book. 4-7) Kirkus"
Based on a medieval Persian poem, this story of discovering self-worth is told through the emotional journey of a lowly grain of sand. It falls to the bottom of the sea, feeling alone and worthless and ends up in an oyster shell, where it becomes an irritant to its host. But when a diver discovers the oyster and the beautiful pearl inside, everything changes. The pearl is set in the necklace of a beloved daughter, bringing joy and laughter to her and the tiny grain of sand at the pearl's heart. The illustrations move from muted pastels of the sea to warm golden tones once the gem enters the world of humans. The acrylics and colored pencils give fluidity to each drawing; there are no hard edges here. Even as the grain of sand feels lost and alone, his world swirls with life and beauty. This is a thoughtful reminder that everything matters.- Edie Ching Booklist Online"
Inspired by a Persian poem, this resonant book from the creators of Albert follows a grain of sand's metamorphosis into a pearl. Napoli's lyrical narrative imbues the tiny grain with emotions. When it becomes lodged in an oyster, it "would have curled in despair, if sand could curl." And as the oyster coats it with shiny layers over the years, forming a shimmering pearl, the grain of sand "felt more and more alone and lost." The melancholy tone lightens considerably after a diver plucks the oyster from the ocean floor and sells the pearl to a prince; he gives it to his wife, who later passes it on to her daughter. The princess treasures the pearl, and the grain of sand finally feels it has reached "home." LaMarche's acrylic and colored pencil illustrations effectively dramatize a remarkable natural transformation and demonstrate a striking sense of light, whether in sunlight filtering down to the seabed or the moonlight under which the princess dances. Although chiefly a story about finding purpose, Napoli's writing gently informs, with subtle details about oysters, fishing, and the creation of pearls. Ages 3 7. PW"

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