Wednesday, July 19, 2006


by Margaret Hodges, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House)

In the business of children's literature, there are two big seasons: spring/summer and fall/winter. And here is a term within the industry: a "window," or an all-too-short period of time in which a book is given publicity attention before the publisher begins to focus on the books in the next season. With the competition of thousands of new children's books released annually and publicity budgets and talents varying greatly, it's only natural some titles fall under the radar. With that in mind, though I will continue my ever-vigilant up-periscope on the brand-spanking new, every now and then I'd like to mention a contemporary book that may not be out just five minutes ago, but that is so wonderful I'd like to make sure you know about it. This is such a book.

Trina Schart Hyman, winner of the Caldecott award and honors many times over, passed away in 2004, a tremendous loss for the children's book community and book lovers everywhere. Her graceful line was inimitable, and she redefined the illustrated fairy tale through the use of borders and windows through which children could safely view fantastic worlds of imagination. It is only fitting that the last work published in the lifetime of such a legend would be a legend. Eloquently adapted from Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, this retelling does not dumb down the Arthurian tales, but makes them short and accessible enough to read aloud in a classroom or at bedtime. This award-winning team succeeds again, the golden-tongued prose of "The Sword in the Stone," "Excalibur," and "The Lady of the Lake" entwined by creeping vines that frame gilded scenes of passion, loss and glory from the days of brave knights and fair damsels. Use this elegant tome to introduce children to some of the most enduring characters in history and literature. Fit for a king (and for a child, too). (7 and up)

Also of interest:
CHANGING WOMAN AND HER SISTERS: STORIES OF GODDESSES FROM AROUND THE WORLD by Katrin Hyman Tchana, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman (Holiday House)
This title casts a broad and enlightening multicultural net, capturing the spirits of many spellbinding female forewarned, though, for all this book's allure, I found the stories in this collection, retold by her daughter, to be a little on the Grimm side for the average read-aloud. However, published post mortem, it is an important book is the consideration of the artist. It employs a breathtaking collage technique that was a departure for her, using photographs makes you look twice to see if you really saw what you think you saw. (10 and up) If you are looking for some amazing girl-power stories, you should definitely treat yourself to TATTERHOOD AND OTHER TALES
edited by Ethel Johnston Phelps, illustrated by Pamela Baldwin Ford (The Feminist Press at CUNY). Though the illustrations are far more understated, the storytelling speaks in a thousand pictures. (10 and up)

Okay, and if we're going down that street, would you please treat yourself to Jane Yolen's amazing, FAVORITE FOLKTALES FROM AROUND THE WORLD(Pantheon)?At five-hundred-some pages, it's a
chef doerve of research and retelling. This education-in-a-book is a must-have resource for teachers, storytellers, and fans of Andrew Lang's BLUE FAIRY BOOK. Good grief, it's like getting a box of chocolates with four layers!

On a personal note
To my wonderful husband, Jim Pollock, I hope you had a happy, happy birthday. I wish you many more, and that all of your dreams come true.

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.

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