Paradise Sands: A Story of Enchantment

A girl passes three days imprisoned in a disquieting, fantastical fortress to protect her brothers in Levi Pinfold's picture book Paradise Sands, a visually gripping, cyclical tale of sacrifice and determination.

This epic journey begins with a poem that frames a puzzling but prophetic path for the story. In several wordless sepia pages that follow, an unnamed protagonist and her three brothers set out in a sedan across a barren landscape to fetch their mother. The girl's idea to bring their mother flowers elicits a singing callback to the poem, suggesting the family's intimate familiarity with the verse. The group stops to gather white blooms but the brothers follow a dirt track to "a silent building" where they "drink deeply from the spring" despite the poem's clear admonitions not to. The brothers are spurred by empty stomachs to go deeper into the foreboding stone "HOTEL" and--having partaken of its food and drink--are trapped. After the girl declines the temptations, she faces the Teller, an enormous lion, who strikes a bargain: "Three days without eating or drinking and things will be as they were before you came here."

Pragmatic text sits in somber contrast to Pinfold's lushly detailed and unsettling mixed-media artwork. The meticulous nature of the art lures the reader's eye to the tiniest illustrative details, and cool blue endpapers stand in stark contrast to the leathery dryness of the sepia palette dominating this stunning and heavily symbolic story. Occasional bursts of color are startling amid the bleak stone backgrounds. Pinfold (The Song from Somewhere Else) blends underworld mythology with fairy-tale sensibility to haunting effect. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

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