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Joint Review: This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad

Twitter - This is Sadie

sadieSadie is a little girl with a big imagination.

She has been a girl who lived under the sea and a boy raised by wolves. She has had adventures in wonderland and visited the world of fairytales. She whispers to the dresses in her closet and talks to birds in the treetops. She has wings that take her anywhere she wants to go, but that always bring her home again.She likes to make things — boats out of boxes and castles out of cushions.

But more than anything Sadie likes stories, because you can make them from nothing at all. For Sadie, the world is so full of wonderful possibilities …

This is Sadie, and this is her story.

This is Sadie is an utterly charming and beautifully illustrated story about a little girl with a very big imagination. In order to review this book properly, I decided I needed a co-reviewer, and my friend Sadie graciously agreed to read the book with me. You can read all about Sadie after our review!

Our Conversation

J: So what did you like best about this book?

S: So many things! The start of the story made me laugh. I liked that Sadie was hiding in the box, and that the story started and finished with her playing in the box. I really liked how the words made you look twice at the pictures (“No, not that. That’s a box. She’s inside the box”). The pictures are really pretty. My favourite was the one with the mermaid – with Sadie as the mermaid. It’s beautiful.

J: It is, isn’t it? I loved the front cover with her in the mask – I thought that was adorable. I also liked the way the pictures blended together – how her skirt became the grass.

The story starts with Sadie in a box, like you said. Why do you think that kids love cardboard boxes so much?

S: Well, they can be anything. They can be castles, like I used to play with, or they can be ships, like in the book. A box can be anything, and I liked that Sadie used her imagination in the book.

J: She does, doesn’t she? How does she find her stories? And did it matter to you that she was alone in the book?

S: No, because she wasn’t alone. She was in her books, playing pretend, and she had all the characters in the book with her. She liked being alone.

There’s a lot of older stories in this book. On that page – the one with the book that looks like a pool – there’s the Little Mermaid and the Ugly Duckling, the Three Bears and Red Riding Hood.

J: So classic fairy tales? I think that there might be Thumbelina and Rapunzel too! Which ones were your favourites?

S: I remember Alice in Wonderland and the Little Mermaid. I remember playing pretend with those stories. When I was little, I used to play the stories the way they were in the books, but then as I got older, I kept going and made up lots of other stories. I played a lot with my doll, but then, if I had other people, you could tell other stories. I used to make a lot of forts, like the one in the story!

You don’t need a lot of fancy toys to play make believe. You can play pretend with art supplies or with dress up clothes, and you can make blanket forts, but you need your imagination. Cardboard boxes are great, and you can use regular ones or special ones that are shaped like rocket ships and other things that you can decorate yourself and then play with.

J: What else did you notice about the book?

S: I noticed the little fox dolls on the pages.

J: That’s pretty amazing – I didn’t notice those the first time! [we took some time here to track down each of the fox dolls on each page – even if they were just tails in the corner]

When you played make-believe, were you a princess?

S: I think I was like Sadie in the book, I was more the hero of the story than the princess. I didn’t need to be the princess, I didn’t really mind. I wanted to be the hero, though. I wanted to be the one who had adventures. I played with boys when I was really young, so we didn’t care if we were princes or princesses. We just wanted to be heroes.

J: Final thoughts?

S: I really, really liked this book. I thought it was really good at showing a little girl using her imagination, and I think that the pictures matched the story really well. It reminded me of when I played pretend when I was younger, and how I was like the girl in the book, playing in boxes and hiding in trees.

Overall Thoughts

Sadie is a wildly imaginative young girl who loves to dive into her books and travel around the world. She is perfectly content to create boats out of boxes and to travel the world of her books, diving into the pages of her books and imagining herself with wings (have you checked for yours?).The story brought back memories of the games we used to play when we were younger, about how the best play sometimes only needs a cardboard box, and even reminded us of some of our favourite classic story books.

Julie Morstad’s whimsical illustrations – a mix of pencil crayon sketches and watercolours – highlight the dreamy nature of Sadie’s imagination, combining the magical with the practical. Those familiar with her work from her own Julie, Child and other books will recognize her distinctive style, a deceptive simplicity that has layers of detail underneath. There’s many lovely little facets to consider, including a hidden fox doll on most of the pages that adds to the fun.

This is a beautiful book that you can read again and again at bedtime or on a lazy rainy day on the porch, with little ones from 2 to more than two. Highly recommended by Sadies and non-Sadies alike!

About Sadie

This is Sadie, and this is her story.

Sadie is a not-so-little girl any more, but she still has a HUGE imagination. When Sadie was little, much like the Sadie in this story, she loved playing in boxes and wearing tutus and capes. There’s lots of pictures of her doing that, but I didn’t want to embarrass her so only put up one of them (and she gave me permission). She played pretend with her dolls, and had her own favourite stories that she built upon with her friends.

In fact, Sadie was SO imaginative that her mom was inspired to start a toy store, filled with toys for the imagination. She called it “Cardboard Castles” because of Sadie’s love of make-believe, and we all feel a little more magical when we visit.

This is Sadie is now available for purchase from your favourite indie or big box bookseller. It is published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin Random House of Canada. ISBN: 9781770495326

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