The newest entry in the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase book series from Disney Press is a charming story about friendship and community. Malina’s Jam is a picture book from character animator Svetla Radivoeva, who has lent her talents to recent hits like Frozen, Moana, Zootopia, and Frozen 2. Whether you’re an animation fan or a parent looking for something new in your bedtime rotation, Malina’s Jam is a winner.
Malina is a painfully shy hedgehog who spends her days tending to her raspberry farm and her nights enjoying a hot cup of tea and a good book. She’s too shy to talk to her animal neighbors, but when she receives compliments on her raspberry jam jars, she starts to open up, giving the jars away as gifts. But when she goes too far and accidentally gives away all of her jam, she learns the true meaning of the word “Community.”
There are several great themes that parents can use to talk to their kids about after the story is over. The first is about being shy or making friends. Having something to share is an easy ice breaker and kids will see Malina go from the most introverted hedgehog ever to the center of attention. It’s also a story about neighbors helping neighbors or friends helping friends. Once Malina becomes part of her community, when she ends up having a time of need, everyone is there for her like she was there for them.
The artistry of the illustrations is so whimsical and charming. Malina’s world is full of warm earth tones that make you feel like the book is radiating warmth and life. The animals are anthropomorphic, but their clothes and houses feel like an extension of nature, with colors inside that reflect the world outside. The most colorful part of the book are the jam jars and Malina’s blushing cheeks.
The book comes with a few extras, First, there’s a recipe to make Malina’s Raspberry Jam with two portion sizes: one for hedgehogs and one for bears (or humans). The second is an “Author’s Note” section where Svetla Radivoeva shares how her childhood love of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast led to her pursuing animation as a career and moving from Bulgaria to Burbank to live her dream. This section in particular is what is so nice about the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase. It lets fans get to know the artists making the modern classics at Disney, but it can also help inspire kids to pursue their dreams by learning more about the artists behind these books.
Malina’s Jam is lovely and lovable. The book feels like an Olaf-style warm hug, perfect for a cozy fall day. The bonus jam recipe activity makes this a great book for parents trying to entertain kids at home during these strange times and it also gives them the rare chance to meet the author through her illustrated epilogue.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.