Illustrated Books: “Oona” & “The Widow’s Broom”

I love picture books and can’t get enough of them. Here are two I read back in May for Wyrd & Wonder, a celebration of all things fantasy. One is about a little mermaid searching for treasure and the other is about a widow who acquired a witch’s broom.

Oona by Kelly DiPucchio, illus. by Raissa Figueroa


Children’s Fantasy





From Goodreads

Meet Oona. The big sea’s littlest mischief maker.

She and her best friend, Otto, love to search for treasure . . . but often find trouble instead.

Messy trouble.

Tricky trouble.

Even shark-related trouble.

That’s never stopped them before, though!

After all, no proper treasure hunt is without some adventure. But when the grandest treasure yet is stuck in a deep, dark rift, Oona’s not sure if she can dive right in. What might be waiting for her in those unknown waters? (Goodreads)

My thoughts

Oona is a children’s fantasy picture book about a little mermaid who enjoys hunting for treasure along the ocean floor with her best friend, Otto the otter. It’s a story about perserverance because despite all Oona and Otto have found, the treasure they want the most is a sparkly crown that remains outside their reach deep in the rift.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like the story as much as I did the illustrations. The story wasn’t horrible, but the execution, or rather the resolution, felt a bit off because I completed it feeling a little confused. Despite that, I like the story’s focus on Oona’s determination. I like that we see her give up for a while and do other things until inspiration led her back to the hunt.

Art style

This was a cover buy. From the moment a coworker pointed out the book to me in the store, I knew I had to get myself a copy. I just love how Oona is designed. I love that she’s a little Black mermaid with a big afro and all sorts of things in her hair.

I also love her interactions with Otto. Some of my favorite pages are when she and Otto imitate pufferfish, which made me chuckle a bit at Otto’s expression, and when we see them rocking sunglasses and while lying on the ocean floor as if they are the coolest beings in the sea.

Figueroa did a great job with these illustrations. I loved the underwater scenes and the blends for the colors used for the background in those scenes. I also think the texture of whatever is used to color in the illustrations works well for the underwater scenes because it further emphasizes the setting.

Overall: ★★★☆☆

The story was okay, but the illustrations are fantastic.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

I wasn’t that sold on the story, unfortunately. But I know I’ll probably purchase a copy for someone’s kid because of the illustrations.

The Widow’s Broom by Chris Van Allsburg (illus.)


Children’s Fantasy





From Goodreads

A 25th anniversary edition of the enchanting story of a widow who finds herself in possession of an extraordinary broom after a witch falls into her garden. (Goodreads)

My thoughts

This one was also a cover buy. I saw it high in the rafters of my favorite indie bookshop! (Well… it was on a very high shelf, almost to the ceiling, so that would be the rafters, right? Anyway…) And I knew I couldn’t leave the shop without it, even though the dust jacket was bent and ripped in places. The illustration on the cover was too stunning for me to pass on this book.

The Widow’s Broom is a children’s fantasy picture book about Minna Shaw, a widow who lives alone in a small farmhouse. One day, Minna finds a witch who had crash-landed in her vegetable patch. It seems that the magic in witch’s broom had run out. After healing, the witch leaves the farm and her broom behind. But, apparently not all the magic had run out because the broom is able to help Minna with tasks around the house.

I enjoyed reading this one. It is a little longer than some children’s picture books I’ve read. It has a Halloween vibe to it since the story is set in the fall and includes witches and a possible haunting. The story also touches on witch trials a bit as we see Minna’s neighbors give in to their fear of the unknown and unfamiliar and try to get rid of the broom by burning it at a stake. However, it is not scary. The story is simply told and fast paced, and I tended to react more to the illustrations than to the story itself.  

Art style

I love it and a major reason why is because of the texture of the medium Van Allsburg used. I did some digging and learned these illustrations where created using a litho pencil (which is very dark, apparently) on a coquille board. I think the texture is from the coquille board. When I googled it, the drawings that pop up have a similar texture. It makes me think of very tiny pixilation. I love it.

Apart from the texture, I also love the sepia tone of the illustrations which, I think, softens the images a bit. I also love how detailed and realistic the illustrations are. I think that’s what drew me to the illustration on the cover and made it stand out from the other picture books on the shelf that have more of a cartoonish quality to their cover illustrations.

Overall: ★★★★☆

A great read with detailed illustrations that made for a splendid experience with the book. I’d like to read more by the author. He also did Jumanji and the Polar Express.

Buy | Borrow | Bypass

It’s worth the purchase.


I couldn’t help thinking of the Ramtop witches from Discworld, especially Granny Weatherwax, as I read this because Granny always has some issue with her broom.


8 thoughts on “Illustrated Books: “Oona” & “The Widow’s Broom”

  1. I agree with you about Oona. Read it June21, but be able to write about it Mar22. During this I always wonder if there are someone like this book. The most important sentence of every books may be the last sentence of them. That’s why I think the author really lower the quality of this book. The last sentence is not get along with all that happened in the book. She should talk about “the benefit from attempt” instead of saying that attempt (to find things) isn’t important.


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