Alma and the Beast

  • Title: Alma and the Beast
  • Author: Esme Shapiro
  • Illustrator: Esme Shapiro
  • Publisher: Tundra, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  • Publication year: 2019
  • Brief Summary: From Penguin Random House-“Alma lives happily in her hairy world, where she can braid the trees, comb the grass, pet the roof and feed her plumpooshkie butterfly. Until one day . . . a hairless, button-nosed beast appears in the garden! At first Alma is scared but when she realizes the beast is lost and misses her hairless home, Alma offers to help her find her way back. As the two take a fantastical journey through the red-headed woods and the bearded mushroom glen to the beast’s bald abode, they discover that they are much more alike than different.”
  • Ideas for using this book in classroom or library – I found this interview with Esme Shapiro from This Picture Book Life, where she explains her intentions for this book and it had me thinking of ways to use this book in a classroom. For young children especially this book could be used to show that no matter how different we look to each other, if we take the time to get to know one another, we may find all the ways we are alike rather than different. For example, Alma finds that the “beast” Mala does similar tasks during her day, like watering the garden to Alma’s “braiding” the grass, painting a roof instead of “petting” the roof, and trimming the hedges, to Alma’s “combing” the grass. When Alma learns that Mala is lost from her home, she immediately thinks how she would feel if she were lost from her home (empathy, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes) and decides that this “beast” needs her help to get home. In this article in This Picture Book Life, you can also view the really cool book trailer made by Shapiro herself.
  • Whatever additional notes you’d like to add about this book and why you liked or didn’t like it – In many places I saw this book compared to the magical, wonderous landscape in Where the Wild Things Are and while I think that is adept comparison, I also think what Shapiro creates in this world is a perfectly unique world not found anywhere else. I loved the two page illustration at the beginning of the book, showing Alma’s hairy house and the hairy world around it, done in autumnal colors of yellow, mustard, copper, and orange. I think the use of these colors makes this world feel cozy and inviting. I also loved the switch in orientation half way through the book as Mala and Alma head to Mala’s world, and the reader must turn the book one way and then turn it the other to see them traveling “down.”

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