Caldecott Honor artist Rohmann's (Time Flies) thrillingly elegant paintings immediately immerse readers in the medieval setting of Armstrong's (Hugh Can Do) resonant tale of two kings. Reluctantly drawn into battle with the wicked, jealous Bregant, wise Cormac is defeated, thrown from his horse and left for dead on the field. Awakening the next day, the newly blinded king hears pleas for mercy from a wounded crow; when Cormac removes an arrow from its wing, the bird promises to repay the king's kindness. The promise is amply fulfilled before this heroic adventure reaches its conclusion. Armstrong's heady storytelling, with its symbolism and formal diction, finds a match in Rohmann's almost operatic compositions and dramatic use of light and shadow. This collaboration takes wing. Ages 5-10. (Apr.)
- Judy Silverman
Gallant King Cormac has been defeated, and blinded, in battle. He is alone in the woods when a crow with an arrow embedded in his wing speaks to him, and Cormac removes the arrow. As the crow flies away, he tells Cormac that his act of kindness will be repaid. Bregant, the tyrant who defeated him, imprisons Cormac in a tower overlooking the courtyard. Visited by the crow, Cormac astounds his jailers with his knowledge of things he hasn't seen. When Cormac's soldiers finally come to save him, Bregant falls from the tower and dies. And then "..the sun rose and crowned Cormac's head with fire." A haunting story. The pictures of medieval castle and battlefields show real fighting and dying, and the text captures tyranny and kindness.
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4In this mystical tale, benevolent King Cormac is goaded into a losing battle with the tyrannical King Bregant. Cormac is blinded by a fall and left for dead on the battlefield. After wandering into the woods, he removes an arrow from the wing of a wounded crow. When the man is captured by opposing soldiers and locked in his own castle's tower, the crow comes to him with a promise to kill Bregant and restore the kingdom. It acts as Cormac's eyes, telling him of events in the castle, and, when the prisoner relates them to his captors, they think he has magical abilities. Insecure Bregant is afraid when Cormac prophecies his downfall, and fear leads to his death. The two kings represent pure good and evil, but this makes them one dimensional, and readers are unlikely to care about them. The plot moves quickly but with little fleshing out, and one is left with the impression that this story is but an episode in a larger legend. Younger readers may take Cormac's allegorical prediction of the tyrant's death literally and wonder why the actual demise is so different. Armstrong does not spin a magical tale, with the exception of Cormac's prophecy, which is almost Biblical. Rohmann's illustrations feature a dark palette similar to his Time Flies (Crown, 1994), and he uses color to reflect the different moods of the story and shapes to define the characters. However, the art merely reflects the text and does nothing to enhance it. This original tale tries to shape itself as a classic legend, but does not succeed.Cheri Estes, Dorchester Road Regional Library, Charleston, SC
Rich, dramatic paintings adorn this tale of treachery and kindness rewarded. Wise and generous King Cormac is envied by his neighbor, evil King Bregnant, who wages war on Cormac. After the battle, Cormac awakes to find himself alone and blind. Despairing, Cormac nevertheless shows compassion to a crow with an arrow in his wing and receives the crow's promise of future aid; later, when Cormac is imprisoned, the crow brings news of Bregnant's actions, enabling Cormac to unnerve his captors with his apparent powers of prophecy. In a final confrontation, Cormac predicts Bregnant's imminent doom, and the terrified tyrant stumbles and falls to his death. Traditional folkloric elements enhance the drama and mystery of this tale, giving it a classic feeling. Rohmann's handsome paintings add to this with sweeping layouts, striking compositions, and darkly burnished colors. A picture book for a slightly older crowd than the story-hour set.