Thursday, December 31, 2020

Worlds That Never Were: Lift by Minh Lee



Iris always gets to push the elevator button when her family comes home to their apartment building. It's a little like magic, really. She pushes the button, enters a plain little box with her mom, dad, and toddler brother, and almost immediately it opens onto a completely different place, one where her apartment is her own personal world. But one day the unthinkable happens. One elevator is out of order, so they move to the other one, and...

Her little brother pushes the button first!


But then Iris notices the elevator repairman toss an discarded button and its frame in the trash. Quickly Iris fishes out and pockets it, and back in her room, she tapes it to the wall by her door. She gives it a push, and with a BING! her door opens, not to her family apartment, but to a dark forest with a tiger!


Iris slams the door just as the doorbell in the living room rings. It's their babysitter, coming to stay with games to play. Iris complies with the plan, frozen dinners and board games and bedtime for her brother and herself. At last it's quiet and in her bedroom behind the closed door, Iris is wide awake and ready for more adventure. She pushes her special private button and her door opens, this time onto outer space, with her own space craft, through which she floats weightlessly and suits up for her own private space walk.

And then when she hears her little brother awake and crying, she floats back into her room and goes into his room, picks him up, and brings him back to have his turn, pushing the button, too, and...


It's another world of towering snow-covered mountains, and the two move out into it, leaving their tracks behind them....

There is no power like imagination "to take us lands away" to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, in Minh Le's latest, Lift, (Hyperion, 2020), in which little Iris finds that her reach for a magic button can take her to imagined "worlds away" where she can roam the universe in her own space station. Mission accomplished! With the comical and quirky illustrations of Caldecott Award-winning artist, Dan Santat, an elevator button lifts Iris and her baby brother into a fanciful world just as the rabbit hole took Alice to Wonderland, with wonderful adventures to be had. "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a Heaven for?" said Robert Browning, one of those optomistic Victorian poets. Author Minh Le favors a more modern prognosticator, Carl Sagan, who said, "Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it, we go nowhere."

Puns Kirkus in their starred review, "Iris' creative growth elevates us all!"

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