The Emperor and the Nightingale

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9780027860450: The Emperor and the Nightingale

The nightingale's beautiful song brings new life to the ailing Emperor, in a vivid adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale.

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From School Library Journal:

Kindergarten-Grade 6-- Andersen's story has here been picked to its bare bones, textually. The Emperor falls ill, but Death and the faces in the bed curtains do not put in an appearance, nor do the courtiers and servants desert their sovereign. The resultant streamlining is, however, quite effective. This tauter version lends immediacy to the well-known tale and reads aloud well. A veritable flock of nightingales has come on the scene in recent years, none equaling the spirit and style of Nancy Ekholm Burkert's pictures for Eve Le Gallienne's translation (HarperCollins, 1965). So's version provides a dashing new rival. Burkert's much admired pictures were largely cribbed from classical Chinese painting; So's are brilliantly original but no less authentic. Stylistically, her watercolor and ink pictures stand somewhere between Ludwig Bemelmans and Qi Bai-shi, the Chinese Picasso. The swashbuckling use of color takes one's breath away and ingeniously offsets the black-and-white mechanical bird, lending it an anemic coldness that adds immeasurably to its function in the story. So has set the illustrations in mid-19th century China, i.e., contemporaneous with Andersen himself. This happy and authentic choice has allowed her to splash down the splendor and decadence of the Qing Court in minute detail from Manchu headdresses to spittoons to the rose madder walls of the Forbidden City. Interesting perspectives are another plus. The artwork in its kaleidoscopic reworking of cultural detail and inspired use of color is nothing short of genius.
- John Philbrook, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Publishers Weekly:

Much of the elegance and subtlety of Andersen's classic tale have been squeezed out of this greatly abridged retelling. Retaining only the skeleton of the original plot, the story stumbles over choppy, prosaic phrasing: "One day a new toy arrived for the Emperor. It was a mechanical nightingale. It sang the same songs as the real bird--very beautifully--and it was prettier, too." In contrast to the lackluster text, So demonstrates a fondness for exuberant color, filling the pages to overflowing with vibrant, cluttered paintings. However, the busily patterned backgrounds, unusual perspectives and outsize proportions lend an air of humor to the tale, far different from the tender message of simple beauty which traditional versions espouse. In addition, while the kaleidoscopic illustrations are visually engaging, youngsters may have difficulty discerning just what's going on in some spreads amid the jumble of images. The obviously gifted artist's work is ill-matched to this timeless tale. Ages 3-7.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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