A partnership between two master storytellers is truly a cause for celebration, and this exceptional tale of overcoming fear to attain freedom perfectly weaves together the power of words and images.
Nanty Solo, a woman of enchantment, arrives in a dreary, grey-tone town, proclaiming her ability to transform children into birds, granting them the gift of flight. The sceptical adults dismiss her claims as mere ‘piffle, twaddle, and balderdash,’ their anxious voices warning the children, ‘You surely wouldn’t want that, would you?’ However, a young girl named Dorothy Carr is captivated by the notion of soaring above the rooftops, her imagination ignited by the possibility of such freedom. With a single gesture from the enigmatic Nanty, Dorothy takes flight, surrounded by a golden halo of flowers and light.
Word quickly spreads, and more children are enticed by the promise of liberation and happiness. They flock to Nanty like benevolent souls drawn to a kinder, gentler Pied Piper. She effortlessly transports them away from their monotonous lives. Rather than embracing this transformative change, the adults recoil in horror, demanding that Nanty depart, labelling her as ‘mad, bad, and utterly terrifying.’ Granting their request, Nanty poses a question to the fearful adults: ‘What is it that you truly fear?’ In this poignant moment, David Almond skilfully alludes to themes of prejudice, otherness, and the propensity to judge those who differ in their ideas and perspectives. As a parting gift, Nanty bestows the joy of flight upon the narrow-minded adults, their vision broadened. One can only hope they recognize how their narrow judgments have cost them a future of richness and vibrancy.
This extraordinary masterpiece, interwoven with subtle layers of meaning, is beautifully adorned with Carlin’s unmistakable mixed-media illustrations. It is a true classic that leaves an indelible mark, resonating with its harmonious rhythm and cohesive storytelling.