December 16 – It’s Read a New Book Month

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About the Holiday

With so many gift-giving opportunities this month, December is the perfect time to discover new books for any age! The delight, wonder, and shared experiences of great books is one of the best presents you can give. This month visit your local bookstore and pick out a special book for the loved ones on your list. (And don’t forget to treat yourself!)

The Glassmaker’s Daughter

Written by Dianne Hofmeyr | Illustrated by Jane Ray


Have you heard about the wondrous city built on water? “Its palaces floated like birds in nests on the the sea and its lamplight danced like fireflies across the ripples.” In one of these beautiful buildings lived Daniela, the glassmaker’s daughter. You might think that Daniela would be happy to be surrounded by so much loveliness, but instead she spent her days staring glumly into the canal. Her father, wanting his daughter to be happy, offered a glass palace to the person who could make his daughter smile.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Right away he had his glassmakers begin construction. “They blew and pulled and pinched the molten glass into sliver-spun walls with pineapple-topped turrets and winged-dragon doors.” Soon people where coming from all over to try to make Daniela smile. First was Maestro Barbagelata, who could breathe fire, swallow swords and snakes, and do tricks on a tightrope. But his performance just made Daniela “gloomier than ever.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Next the mask maker Donna Violetta Rufina Zangara arrived with a carriage full of masks made with jewels, birds’ eggs, shells and pearls, and peacock feathers. But Daniela was not enticed by these masks; in fact, they made her “glummer than ever.” Leonardo Leonino Grandi brought his fierce lion, which instead of amazing Daniela caused Leonardo to topple from his gondola into the water. “But even this didn’t bring a smile to Daniela’s lips.”

So many tradespeople, performers, tricksters, and adventurers were sure that they could make Daniella smile, but none of them succeeded. Daniela’s father was at a loss. But down in a corner of the glassmaker’s workshop Angelo thought he knew just what to do. He “longed more than anyone to make Daniela smile.” As he removed the hot glass from the furnace and began blowing it, he whispered, “‘Flux and fire.’” As he laid the glass flat and spread slivers of silver mercury on the surface, he chanted, “‘Mercury and tin,’” As he smoothed the slivers, he said, “‘Foiled and finished. And polished thin,’” When he finished “he sang his secret song again.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

The other glassmakers scoffed when Angelo told them he was making something that would make Daniela smile. But with his gift carefully wrapped, Angelo went in search of Daniela. When he found her and she saw the glass in his hand, she rejected his gift. But Angelo told her to “‘Look again, Principessa. This is no ordinary piece of glass. It’s different. Look into it.”

Daniela did as she was told, and when Angelo asked her what she saw, Daniela described “a creature with a mouth like an upside-down slice of lemon and the eyes of a cross dragon.” She thought it was the funniest face she had ever seen. And right before her eyes, the face changed. The lips turned up and the eyes began to shine. “Daniela burst out laughing.” As she laughed, the newly made glass palace began to splinter and crack until the “entire palace fell to smithereens.”

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Image copyright Jane Ray, 2017, text copyright Dianne Hofmeyr. Courtesy of Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

Daniela’s father promised to build Angelo another palace if he would only tell him how his “magic glass” had made his daughter smile. But Angelo told him that Daniela had changed herself. “‘My glass only reflects what’s already there,’” he said. “‘Happiness is inside all of us. You only have to discover it.’” Daniela agreed, and laughed once more as she peered into the glass. The sound of her laughter set every bell in the city ringing. Men, women, and children began to laugh with her. They danced and played. Even the Grand Doge emerged from his palace to join in the celebration.

So if you hear the bells of Venice ringing, you know that Daniela is laughing, and if you “peep into a looking glass,” you will most likely see a smile on your face too.

A brief and fascinating history of glassmaking and mirror making precedes the story.

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Written in the style of classic fairy tales, Dianne Hofmeyr’s story has a very contemporary message—one that is a timely reminder and allows young readers to embrace their power to determine their own happiness. Children may smile at the various attempts to please Daniela, but they—like Angelo—will also appreciate and understand that Daniela was searching not for outward but inward happiness all along.  

Jane Ray’s lush illustrations mirror the colors and atmosphere of Venice, as the performers don carnival masks and costumes, gondolas are poled along the canals, and the dark glassmaker’s workshop glows with molten glass. The delicate and lovely glass palace depicted at the beginning of the story shatters into shimmering shards in a two-page spread which makes dazzling use of iridescent paper accents. This stunning image is a beautiful metaphor for Daniela’s warmth breaking through her seemingly cold and fragile exterior when she finally smiles and laughs.

Ages 4 – 8

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1847806765

Discover more about Dianne Hofmeyr and her books on her website

Learn more about Jane Ray, her books, and her art on her website.

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