‘Tommelise’ discusses what its like to feel small in a big, scary world


Emily Hammersley-Ambroise, 41 pgs, emiham.ca, $5

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of fairy tale adaptations, particularly if they feature vivid landscapes and adorable little animals. Bonus points for friendly rodents!

A short graphic novel for young readers, Tommelise retells the classic tale of Thumbelina, abandoning the original work’s full-sized human characters and marriage proposals, instead putting the focus on wilderness survival. Our title character is faced with new dangers at every turn, including hungry amphibians, nasty weather, and limited supplies. Thankfully, the story never becomes too bleak or distressing due to the adorable art style, and some of the happier moments are downright heartwarming, emphasizing the importance of teamwork in dangerous or unfamiliar situations.

It’s worth mentioning that Tommelise contains no dialogue, instead using exaggerated facial expressions, grunts and animal noises taking the place of words. For the most part this works, though I did have trouble interpreting one scene near the halfway point — perhaps my only real criticism of the book.

The adventures of our tiny heroine are rendered in strong black and white tones, often resembling woodcuts. Later pages add some grayscale watercolour-style shading, a particularly suitable choice for the wintery scenes.

Personally, I loved seeing the variety of weather changes and scenery throughout the book; this is definitely a story that appealed to my nature-loving side. The characters themselves are portrayed in a simplistic and big-eyed style that would perfectly suit an animated adaptation, and I admit I almost squealed with delight when Tommelise met the adorable rat.

Tommelise is a very quick read, and can be finished in around 30 minutes — though a satisfying 30 minutes for sure! Recommended reading for fairy tale enthusiasts, or anyone in the mood for a charming and emotional wilderness adventure.