Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Mermaid's Purse

The Mermaid's Purse

Patricia Polacco
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Penguin, 2016   ISBN: 978-0399166921

In 1883, during a fierce storm, a baby girl was born just as a clap of thunder shook the air. The baby was still in the birth membrane when she came into the world, which many people considered to be a sign that the baby was blessed. The baby was named Estella and it soon became clear that she was indeed a blessed child. She walked and talked sooner than most children did, and she taught herself to read at a very young age.

Estella’s love for the written word was a powerful thing. Every penny she earned she used to buy books. Often she traded paintings she created for books as well. Soon Estella’s book collection filled the upper floor of the farmhouse that she lived in. Her father thought he would soon have to “build you your own library for all these books!” and one day this is exactly what he did. With the help of friends, Estella’s father built his daughter a little building where she could house her book collection.

Some of the men who helped build the library “scoffed” at Estella’s books, which troubled her a great deal. How could anyone not like books? Estella’s father explained that many of the men who had helped with the library project had probably never even read a book. Being a very determined young girl, Estella decided that she would take books to the neighboring farms, and so she loaded up some of her books into her goat cart and went from farm to farm. Though the local children seemed eager to enjoy her books and her storytelling times, the farmers simply did not accept that Estella’s books were relevant to them. Until she proved how wrong they were.

This delightful and powerful tale is based on the true story of the author’s grandmother, Estella Barber, who built a library, shared her love of books with others, and taught hundreds of children. Readers will discover, through the story, how valuable book knowledge can be both in good times, and during emergencies.