Comus

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Milton's 'A Mask. Presented at Ludlow Castle,' itself based on the ancient English folktale 'Childe Roland,' makes an odd choice for adaptation into a picture book, even on the heels of Hodges's and Hyman's collaborations St. George and the Dragon and The Kitchen Knight. In masques, after all, the characters stand around and declaim, briefly act or more likely dance, and then declaim again-the charms of which don't translate in this stiffly paced retelling. The protagonists, at least, are children, here named Alice, John and Thomas. Separated from her brothers in a dark wood, Alice is ensnared by Comus, a sorcerer who is the offspring of Circe and Bacchus. She resists his proffered drink-which would turn her into a half-beast like all his followers-and is rescued by her brothers, with the magic aid of a Good Spirit and the local river nymph. This deus ex machina plot, typical of masques, is cleansed of Milton's thematic obsession with Alice's virginity and possible loss of it, although a few of Hyman's paintings suggest the sexual undertones. Hyman compensates in part for the brittle narration by cleverly suggesting a stage with curtain-opening imps, also furnishing a deeply gloomy and haunted wood, a horrifically comic mob of monsters and the bright dawn of a happy ending. This volume may give a taste of 17th-century English pageantry and appeal to parents seeking adaptations of classic works, but it is probably too mannered to kindle much enthusiasm in young readers.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Milton's "A Mask. Presented at Ludlow Castle," itself based on the ancient English folktale "Childe Roland," makes an odd choice for adaptation into a picture book, even on the heels of Hodges's and Hyman's collaborations St. George and the Dragon and The Kitchen Knight. In masques, after all, the characters stand around and declaim, briefly act or more likely dance, and then declaim again-the charms of which don't translate in this stiffly paced retelling. The protagonists, at least, are children, here named Alice, John and Thomas. Separated from her brothers in a dark wood, Alice is ensnared by Comus, a sorcerer who is the offspring of Circe and Bacchus. She resists his proffered drink-which would turn her into a half-beast like all his followers-and is rescued by her brothers, with the magic aid of a Good Spirit and the local river nymph. This deus ex machina plot, typical of masques, is cleansed of Milton's thematic obsession with Alice's virginity and possible loss of it, although a few of Hyman's paintings suggest the sexual undertones. Hyman compensates in part for the brittle narration by cleverly suggesting a stage with curtain-opening imps, also furnishing a deeply gloomy and haunted wood, a horrifically comic mob of monsters and the bright dawn of a happy ending. This volume may give a taste of 17th-century English pageantry and appeal to parents seeking adaptations of classic works, but it is probably too mannered to kindle much enthusiasm in young readers. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-John Milton's 1634 masque, originally written in blank verse and based on the ancient English folktale, "Childe Roland," has been recast as a picture book. Goblins pull aside a curtain on the title and dedication pages, suggesting that the events that follow happen on stage. Milton's plot is the template as two brothers rescue their lost sister from the clutches of an evil magician, Comus. Supernatural help comes from a Good Spirit disguised as a shepherd and from a gentle nymph of the River Severn. Comus captures humans with a drink that turns them into beasts. The wild scene showing these debauched monsters feasting recalls Puritan Milton's distrust of aristocratic excess. Hyman's illustrations are compelling, from the dark opening scenes in the forest, where children will enjoy spotting nasty creatures lurking among the trees, to the climactic fight between the brothers and Comus. The last page, with its note explaining the story's provenance, shows the actors taking a curtain call. Unfortunately, the conventions of the masque hobble plot development. The denouement comes too quickly and without preparation. "Childe Roland" works better as a story; adults may want to invite children to compare the two. With its dramatic illustrations, this book could serve as an introduction to Milton and his times for older students, while entertaining younger readers with its tale of elemental conflict between vulnerable children and powerful evil.Margaret A. Chang, North Adams State College, MA
Janice Del Negro
nger for reading aloud. In accessible, beautiful language, Hodges retells John Milton's "Masque at Ludlow Castle," a tale of the eternal battle between good and evil. Innocent, young Alice is kidnapped by the evil magician Comus, but she resists his enchantment long enough for her spirited brothers, aided by an angel and a sympathetic water nymph, to come to her rescue. In the hands of artist Hyman, the story becomes a visual battle between light and dark, with moody, effective watercolors reflecting the intensely romantic mood of the text. The faces of the characters are beautifully rendered: Hyman's villains are truly evil, and her forces of good glow--first in the darkness of the deep woods, then in the smoky, candlelit hall of the evil magician. Hodges includes a brief source note with enough information to lead eager readers to the original tale and other versions.
Kirkus Reviews
Hodges (Gulliver in Lilliput, 1995, etc.) bases her story on Milton's theatrical version of what may be the oldest of all English fairy tales, "Childe Roland."

John, Thomas, and their sister, Alice, are lost in the woods; she is abducted by the wicked magician, Comus, but the brothers rescue her with aid from the Good Spirit and the nymph Sabrina. Although this isn't very convincing as a fairy tale, it is a nice literary antique. The writing is rather high-flown and solemn, and includes several remnants of speeches. Supernatural characters fill the scenes, but remain outside the central thrust of the narrative, spectators rather than participants, loose ends rather than compelling threads. Most of the illustrations are dark, with frightening, gargoyle-like creatures lurking around the edges. The text is set off in white rectangles against Hyman's elaborate woodland scenes, deftly drafted and painted with oils. These pictures are gothic, combining all manner of magical elements, but ensuring that everyone—good and bad characters alike—looks romantically handsome. Not an exceptional book, but quite skillfully done.

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Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940017128633
  • Publisher: New York : Holiday House
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: Digitized from 1996 volume
  • File size: 407 KB

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