Reviewed Books: Autumn 2004
The following are books SurLaLune has received for review.
Review by Heidi Anne Heiner: Newbery Medalist Avi writes a new book reminscent of A. A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh) at his best, but with a charm all his own. Avon, a snail, decides to go out on an adventure after reading about so many adventures in books. In the process of leaving, he becomes friends with Edward, an ant, just in time to say good-bye. After a suitable good-bye--no one likes long good-byes-- Edward catches up with Avon and they continue the adventure together. Simple logic, whimsical word play, and hidden humor follow them along the way as they experience numerous beginnings and endings. Their adventures and friendship are quirky and charming, but far from sappy or sweet. Ultimately, when their journey is finished, they discover that they have only reached the end of the beginning, a wonderful philosophy of life for young and old.
Suitable and highly recommended for middle readers and up. This book also makes a great addition to a personal library since it will hold up to multiple readings thanks to its witty insights into life and living.
Review by Heidi Anne Heiner: As any parent knows, each child comes with special talents and abilities that require nurturing. In "The Sons of the Dragon King," Ed Young retells and illustrates an ancient Chinese folktale in which a parent, the great Dragon King, struggles with his nine unique children, all sons. As he hears complaints about his sons from tutors and neighbors, the king realizes his sons are not living lives befitting their royal heritage. He sets out to chastise each of them, but instead recognizes the talents behind each son's activities and gives them jobs that celebrate and use each talent. For example, one son becomes the guardian of music, another the servant of justice, and another the protector of food preparation.
When the tale is ended, the king is pleased with his sons and they are in turn happy with their assigned roles, continuing in them to this day when they are represented on instruments, doorways, rooftops, etc.
The text and illustrations are better suited to older children, third grade and up, but the tale has great potential for reading aloud to slightly younger children. The tale will also resonate with parents and teachers as the king struggles to nurture his children's gifts and find their places in history. Overall, a highly recommended version of an ancient tale with modern applications.
Jane and Heidi E. Y. Stemple. The
Barefoot Book of Ballet Stories. Rebecca Guay, illustrator. Boston:
Barefoot Books, 2004.
Review by Heidi Anne Heiner: When Jane Yolen and Barefoot Books work together, one can safely assume a high quality book will result. In this new collaboration between Yolen and her daughter, Heidi Stemple, seven classic ballet tales are retold and illustrated by Rebecca Guay. All seven tales--Coppelia, Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Nutcracker, Shim Chung, The Sleeping Beauty, and Daphnis and Cloe--are beautifully written, providing vivid details and rich language instead of the more cursory texts provided in similar collections. Short introductions to each ballet, including performance histories and story sources, enriches the collection. The authors also include a brief historical timeline of ballet and a bibliography that references books as well as websites for those who want to learn more about the ballets. Guay's colorful illustrations will appeal to the most romantic dreams of any balletomane, emphasizing the brilliant colors, elaborate costumes and choreography usually associated with the ballets in performance. Overall, a wonderful book for school age children and up either to read or have read to them.
Stories. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2004.
Review by Heidi Anne Heiner: In 1991, Cooper Edens published "The Three Princesses: The Ultimate Illustrated Edition," a book containing three princess fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty) with 172 illustrations from the Golden Age of illustration. The book has since gone out of print and has become popular among collectors with some editions selling for well over $100 in the used book market.
Now Edens has produced a similar book, "Princess Stories," which may become just as sought after by collectors in the years to come. This time he includes eight tales, including Cinderella, The Frog Prince, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Pea, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Beauty and the Beast. Edens has included over 150 illustrations to accompany the tales by such masters as Kay Nielsen, Walter Crane, Edmund Dulac, Charles Robinson, W. Heath Robinson, Honor Appleton, Jesse Wilcox Smith, and Arthur Rackham. More obscure and anonymous illustrations by these illustrators' contemporaries are also included. Thus results a feast of fairy tale illustrations in color and black and white for all ages.
The hardcover book is printed on fine paper and new illustrations appear with every turn of the page. Readers will enjoy comparing the different visions by the illustrators of the same tales. The texts are also rich and reflect earlier versions of the tales. My only regret is that there wasn't room for even more illustrations although plenty are provided here.
Unfortunately, the cover of the book is deceptive due to its design. With the last two letters of "Princess" appearing over the glowing candle, the book appears to be "Prince Stories" at first glance of the cover. Never fear, the interior of the book is much better designed with no loss of illustration or textual integrity.
Penguin and the Pea. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press, 2004.
Review by Heidi Anne Heiner: Penguins are Janet Perlman's favorite animals. She has previously reinterpreted two other fairy tales with penguins, "Cinderella Penguin, Or, the Little Glass Flipper" and "The Emperor Penguin's New Clothes." In her most recent book, she gives the classic "Princess on the Pea" a new penguin spin.
While Perlman overall stays true to Hans Christian Andersen's tale, she adds some modern twists including an extra night in which the princess sleeps horribly on what mattress covering a cabbage. On the second night she gets the pea and excessive bedding to contend with. While the princess is uncomfortable and detects the pea, her excessive bruising comes from falling out of the high bed.
Modern sensibilities will appreciate that in this version the prince falls in love with the princess while playing games, singing, and dancing, not necessarily because she is a true princess. While the penguins are somewhat awkward in the story, they help this version of the classic tale cross ethnic borders and provide whimsical touches to a familiar story.
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