Title: Silvinawynn and the Winter Solstice
Author: Iris Aguilar
Genre: Picture book, Children’s (7-10)
Stalk the Author: Official Website
The story is about Silvinawynn, a young mortal woman with Cerebral Palsy, that’s confined to a wheelchair. She has no idea why she has been swept away to a celebration of the winter solstice at the palace of Lugh, a faery deity king. Dressed in a beautiful, golden gown and circlet, she eagerly watches the deities celebrate and dance in the great palace hall.
When Lugh asks her to dance, she sadly declines because she cannot walk. But Lugh merely laughs and whisks her out of her wheelchair. They float to the ceiling and drift through the hall enjoying the festivities. When Lugh kisses Silvinawynn below a sphere of evergreen and mistletoe fashioned by the Green Man, a nature deity, she not only experiences untold happiness, but she and Lugh have launched a new tradition—that of kissing beneath the kissing bough, or mistletoe.
Little known fact: I like to review books! And usually if you ask me, I’ll review it as long as it’s a genre or subject matter I’m interested in. The author of this picture book actually reached out to me and asked if I would review the book. I was going to turn it down because the last picture book I think I read was when I was 10? And I’m not familiar enough with those kinds of books to feel like I could give it a fair, insightful review. But the premise intrigued me (I swear that lately it feels like if you write anything that has diverse characters, I will be your champion) and I accepted it.
Because it’s a “picture book” of sorts, it was really fast to get through. Now when someone says picture book, I think of works like When You Give a Mouse a Cookie or The Very Hungry Caterpillar or even Where the Wild Things Are. You know, books that have simple stories with a line or two on each page and these beautiful full page illustrations to accompany them. Sometimes it feels like the illustration comes first and then the story comes second, but this book felt the opposite. It felt like the story came first and the illustrations were more like an afterthought to help shape the world. And the illustrations aren’t full page spreads either; they’re sort of like half-page illustrations. Which is understandable since formatting a picture book like Where the Wild Things Are is headache-inducing.
The blurb of the story made me think the story was going to focus primarily on Silvinawyn, the young mortal woman with Cerebral Palsy, but it didn’t. Instead, it mostly focused on the winter solstice celebration and what it was. And because the book didn’t center exclusively around Silvinawyn, it gave me mixed feelings.
First off: the author herself has Cerebral Palsy and huge kudos to her for incorporating a character she can relate to. And I think having and showing a character with Cerebral Palsy in story AND illustration is super important to any child who has Cerebral Palsy. But because the main focus of the story seemed to be on the festival, I didn’t get to really know the essence of what makes Silvinawyn. I think it would’ve been more interesting to see the sort of journey that brought her from the mortal world to partying with a bunch of deities. What makes her so special? Why was she chosen?
I’m also aware that the author has knowledge in some photo manipulation and thus used her photo manipulation skills to help create the illustrations. Because illustrations are sort of super important in picture books, I feel I have to note that the majority of the illustrations are really nice, but there are some that don’t match the same style and thus the quality of the illustrations aren’t consistent. I think this might be due to source of photo, but with a lot more practice, I know she’ll figure out how to keep the quality of the illustrations more consistent.
Though I had some problems with the book, I don’t think it’s horrible. I enjoyed the simplicity of the story and I also enjoyed how the author sort of snuck in a few older vocabulary words such as “ethereal.”
The story had a fairy tale-esque feel to it, so anyone who likes classic, sweeter fairy tales would probably enjoy this. (Think G-rated Disney tales, not Grimm fairy tales.)
As with all picture books, this was a super quick read. I think I finished this while drinking my morning tea. Also: I don’t think this book is available on any ebook platform yet? If you want to read and check it out, you’ll have to purchase it directly from the author’s website. Click here to check it out!