Alma and the Beast's main character, an endearing creature covered with long, swirling gray tresses, wakes to a day "like any other." On this seemingly ordinary morning, Alma feeds her "plumpooshkie butterfly," braids the trees, combs the grass and pets the long, silky hair of the roof, "as one does when the days grow chilly and pink." But Alma soon finds that there is "something strange" in the garden. There appears to be a "hairless, button-nose beast" lurking about. Alma tries hiding but, "because beasts do not always go away when you close your eyes," the beast does not disappear. Instead, she insists that she's "TERRIBLY, TREMENDOUSLY STUPENDOUSLY LOST" and needs Alma's help to get home.
Once Alma understands that the beast is sad rather than scary, she leads her through some very hairy landscapes until the pair finally reach "a grand, whimpering, weeping willow." They go up the tree and down the other side, until they stand before the beast's "marvelous" but decidedly "bald" home. Here, Alma enjoys gardens that are watered not combed, roofs that are painted not petted, and hedges that can be trimmed rather than braided. Eventually, the day winds down, and Alma begins to "miss her hairy home."
Esmé Shapiro's (Ooko) gorgeous watercolor, gouache and pencil illustrations allow this story to soar, her boldly colorful palette and textured details bringing Alma to fantastical life. In this charming picture book, which celebrates the broadening of one's borders, Alma's day ends as it began, "like any other," but not before she hugs her new human friend, Mala, having learned that everyone--even "beasts"--have names. --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI