Paul Gallico is best known as the author of the haunting 20th-century legend The Snow Goose. But during his lifetime, this prolific and versatile American writer also published several enduring children's books, popular novels such as The Poseidon Adventure, and, in 1951, a gem of a story about the power of love. In this enchanting picture book, celebrated Toronto storyteller Bob Barton gives Paul Gallico's The Small Miracle a simple yet lyrical retelling.
Pepino is an orphan boy who lives in a stable in the Italian town of Assisi. His only companion is a donkey with a curious expression around the corners of her mouth that resembles a smile. Together, they deliver wood, water, and olives to pay for their living. "Pepino's hard work and Violetta's smile," Barton writes, "brought them lots of jobs and made people happy." One day, however, Violetta falls ill and stops smiling. Pepino takes her to the doctor and the parish priest and the town's bishop, all to no avail. Pepino's last remaining hope for curing the little donkey is to lead her into the crypt of Saint Francis and ask the famous saint to bless her. But that would require knocking down a wall and only "His Holiness the Pope" can approve such an action. So the boy journeys to Rome, where his innocent faith touches the heart of a pope. Carolyn Croll's charming pencil and watercolour illustrations are reminiscent of those found in the American illustrator's own touching picture book about the magic of faith, The Little Snow Girl. (Ages 4 to 8) --Lisa Alward [via]