About Dear Mili
Dear Mili is a picture book with themes of faith and fulfillment in giving by a pair of storytellers born centuries apart. The author of this unfamiliar fairy tale is Wilhelm Grimm, the OG writer of Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, and Cinderella. Children and those who love reading with children are undoubtedly familiar with author-illustrator Maurice Sendak, most notably known for the wild rumpus that is Where the Wild Things Are. Sendak’s illustrations for this book are ornate with refreshingly muted colors. Both Grimm and Sendak are sometimes criticized for being darker in nature, so the reader should beware of potentially difficult themes and topics when perusing their works.
The book opens as a letter from Wilhelm Grimm to a child named Mili, a real girl who lived more than two hundred years ago. In a time where people could not fly as birds did to spend time together, Grimm describes to the child the ability of the human heart going out to one another “undeterred by what lies between.” Imagining his heart was beside hers, Grimm’s story to little Mili begins.
As a mother, it is difficult to read about another mother who sends her child off into the wilderness to escape the dangers of war. However, perhaps this is softened by the unwavering faith of the mother and child in the story. Seeing that God has always protected her child the mother reads as confident during the sendoff, and on the frightening, tiresome journey the little girl, who appears to be about five or six years old, cries out to the Lord for the strength to go on. A beautiful light appears, like a star that has fallen from the sky, eventually leading her to a hut, which is the home of an old man who provides shelter for her in exchange for her help in preparing meals. When gathering ingredients in utopian fields and meadows she makes a friend, a guardian angel that has been with the young girl her whole life and who helps make a pleasant time away from home. Knowing she must return home, the man sends the child off with a rose that will bloom when they are to be together again; her playmate guides the way. The little girl finds her old village unrecognizable, though she is able to find her way home to her now much older mother. What felt like three days to the little girl was a span of thirty years.
If you would like to learn the bittersweet circumstances in which the rose blooms, I recommend you check out Dear Mili from either the Hillsboro or Green Bank Library.