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Roxie Fiste
Author, Illustrator
Ali’s Big Adventure
Roxie Fiste, author
Ali, a young puffball, finds himself lost after an uncontrollable bounce. He is found by Mika, a human boy from a northern tribe. Mika has heard legends about puffballs so agrees to help Ali find his home. Along their journey they meet a talking pony that speaks his mind. Together, they overcome many obstacles to take Ali back to his family. Their quest brings their friendship closer.
Soft hued and rich with themes of friendship and working together, Fiste’s debut provides young readers with a warm-hearted glimpse of the power that comes with helping others. Young Ali is a puffball—one of the “soft, rubbery creatures that live in a hidden valley near the Southern Cliffs”—who hasn’t yet quite mastered that key skill of his kind, bouncing. When he forgets his parents’ warnings that out-of-control bounces aren’t safe, Ali learns the hard way that sometimes the most fun can lead to the worst consequences, finding himself far away from home, dependent on the kindness of strangers to make his way back.

Fiste’s story charms with a muted innocence that suggests simpler times, as the characters—all uniquely different from each other—quickly come together to lend a helping hand. Ali, who, after jumping at a dragonfly inadvertently bounces away into a far off forest, is suddenly alone and exhausted—so exhausted, he immediately falls asleep, only to wake up with a human named Mika staring him in the face. Luckily for Ali, Mika is all smiles and full of compassion, immediately willing to help Ali get back home once he gets the scoop on the puffball’s problems. As Mika and Ali set off, they’re joined by Scout, “a golden pony,” and a watchman at the Sand Palace gate who gifts them with magical balloons—balloons that later come in handy when a broken bridge kickstarts their creative problem solving.

Fiste adorns each page with delicate colored pencil illustrations that showcase Ali, Mika, and Scout in exotic locales and sometimes precarious situations. This provides a subtle background for the story’s implied message that working together delivers the best results, even when that means joining forces with others who seem extraordinarily unfamiliar. Of course, Ali’s reunion with his family is sweet to behold, as is his hope that his new friendships will be lifelong.

Takeaway: Sweet tale of why working together produces the best results.

Comparable Titles: Giulia Belloni’s Anything Is Possible, Leo Timmers’s Elephant Island.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: B+
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-