The Jewel Heart

Publisher: Philomel Books, 1994

Editor: Patricia Lee Gauch

Art Director: Nanette Stevenson

The Jewel Heart, by Barbara Helen Berger

On a small stage on the forest floor, two dolls play out their story. Gemino gives his song to Pavelle with the only voice he has, his violin, and she cannot dance without him. But one day Gemino is lost, and Pavelle sets out to find and then to fix her broken friend if she can. A story of the healing power of love.

Author’s comments:

Facing the title page, an audience of small animals (a toad, chipmunk, chickadee, snail, two mice, a moth, and others) waits in front of a stage with red curtains. The curtains part as the story begins, and we meet Gemino and Pavelle. The audience animals become blue “shadows” who are now part of the story too. They move in and out of the picture frames through the rest of the book.

I loved ballet as a child, and wanted to be a ballerina. In this story, Pavelle the dancer is proud and demanding at the beginning. But by the end she is humbled and softened by the loss of Gemino, by her transforming work of fixing him (with the shadows’ help), and her own love for him.

At the very end of the book there is a wordless denouement: the curtains of the little stage have closed, the audience of animals who entered the story have all gone home, and small flowers are blooming around the stage where there were none before.

Gemino had a jewel for a heart

“Gemino had a jewel for a heart.”

Reviews of THE JEWEL HEART

Publishers Weekly
*starredreview*
August 22, 1994

Borrowing classical stage traditions for its themes and characterizations, this original tale speaks of unrequited love and romantic transformations. The voiceless Gemino, a Pagliacci-style clown, has only a jewel for a heart. He plays his violin for his beloved ballerina, Pavelle, whose appreciation for him seems to end with his haunting music. But when Gemino lies listless in a heap after a tragic fall, Pavelle is desperate to “fix” him. Aided by the animal shadows, she stitches new clothes (with a spider’s web for thread and a thistle’s spine for a needle) and patches him together. But Gemino needs a new heart. The shadow spirits offer a “brown seed … dull and plain.” Pavelle plants it in Gemino’s chest, her tears watering it. When Gemino wakes and plays a new song, a living bud replaces his jewel heart. It is, however, Pavelle who has changed most. The style and soft palette of Berger’s (Grandfather Twilight) acrylic paintings exude the familiar prettiness of a fairy tale, but her dramatic storytelling and gossamer imagery elevate the work to the elegance of opera or ballet. A substantial story that will blossom with repeat readings. …

Booklist
September 1994

… With the same luminous palette of blues and greens and the same serene, poetic style she used in Grandfather Twilight … Berger paints a mystical woodland scene to stage her story. A soft dream spun of song and dance, this sweetly evocative picture book about the power of love will enchant young ballerinas who yearn for something magical.

—Annie Ayres

School Library Journal
October 1994

… A gentle story of the healing power of love, this will appeal to those young listeners who can leave the world of logic behind and willingly step into the realm of fantasy. … As with Berger’s Grandfather Twilight … nature plays a prominent role. … [The] pastel tones contrast strongly with the primary red of the young woman’s costume, adding an ethereal, magical quality to the work. Reminiscent in mood of Margaret Wise Brown’s Wait Till the Moon Is Full … the book can be used with a group but is better for one-on-one sharing.

—Nancy Menaldi-Scanlan, Wheeler School

Children’s Books

Grandfather Twilight
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An old man made of sky goes out walking at the end of each day. In his hand, he carries a single pearl that grows with every step until, “Gently, he gives the pearl to the silence above the sea.” A classic bedtime picture book.

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The Donkey’s Dream
The Donkey's Dream

As he walks along, a donkey dreams he is carrying a city, a ship, a fountain, a rose, then a “lady full of heaven” upon his back. When the lady gives birth in a cave, she calls the donkey to her: “See what we have carried all this way, you and I.”

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A Lot of Otters
A Lot of Otters

A toddler in pajamas sails off in a box with his book, and the story in his book unfolds around him. He meets the sea otters who dive for fallen stars under the sea, carry them up and cavort with the stars, causing “such a commotion of light,” that Mother Moon looks down.

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All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet
All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet, by Barbara Helen Berger

How far is it to Lhasa? Very far. Up windy slopes, over mountain torrents and snow, a boy and his yak keep going. Will they ever reach the holy city of Lhasa? The boy doesn’t know, but an old woman has told him he can make it there before nightfall.

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Animalia
Animalia, by Barbara Helen Berger

Learning to do calligraphy, I fell in love with Medieval illuminated manuscripts. I wanted to try and make one for children of our own time. I was also exploring Buddhism and Christianity and found a great compassionate heart in both. In Buddhism, this big heart includes not only human beings, but all beings, even small insects.

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Gwinna
Gwinna, by Barbara Helen Berger

GWINNA is the story of a girl who has wings but does not know it. When she hears a mysterious song in the wind, it fills her with longing. Led by a small white owl, Gwinna sets out on a quest, finding her wings, her own power of flight, and at last the harp she longs for.

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Angels on a Pin
Angels on a Pin, by Barbara Helen Berger

There is a famous old question: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Long-ago philosophers used to ponder that. Ideas still come from asking questions. ANGELS ON A PIN begins with one we can ask any time: What if?

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When the Sun Rose
When the Sun Rose, by Barbara Helen Berger

A magic friend comes with her lion from the yellow rose of the rising sun. She stays to play: “The lion purred. And we made rainbows all day.” At sunset, the friend must leave, but she promises to return. “Now it is dark. My friend is gone.”

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Thunder Bunny
Thunder Bunny, by Barbara Helen Berger

When old Granny says, “She came out of the blue,” Thunder Bunny wonders, “I did?” She ponders the sky where clouds come and go yet the blue is always there. “I came from the sky.” The others pooh-pooh that, but Thunder Bunny decides to jump on the wind and find out.

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Where to Find My Books

Moonlet’s book from A Lot of Otters