The Nightingale

The Nightingale

4.0 4
by Hans Christian Andersen, Pirkko Vainio

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When the Chinese emperor is presented with a bejeweled, golden nightingale he rejects his living, singing pet nightingale.  But when he falls ill, only the song of the true nightingale can heal him.  See more details below


When the Chinese emperor is presented with a bejeweled, golden nightingale he rejects his living, singing pet nightingale.  But when he falls ill, only the song of the true nightingale can heal him.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"An unusually beautiful version of an old favorite." Book Magazine on The Ugly Duckling, illustrated by Pirkko Vainio.

School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—Pleasant watercolor views of the Chinese emperor's palace, garden, and courtiers frame this nicely retold account of the modest bird and its beautiful song. Vainio omits or shortens some conversations and longer descriptions of some of the characters, but events flow well, faithfully following the scheme of the well-known story. Andersen's lengthy text is challenging to fit in a picture-book format, and as in all abbreviations of it there are some losses. Here the story's culminating scene with the personified figure of death and the return of the nightingale loses a bit of the early richness. No longer does the nightingale bargain with death for the emperor's sword, crown, and banner or ask a final promise of the emperor. Vainio is surely to be applauded for restraining from the opulence that often overpowers contemporary picture-book retellings. His attractive rendering is an inviting introduction to the durable story, sure to be widely enjoyed for personal reading and group sharing.—Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
Kirkus Reviews

A fresh version of Andersen's tender tale is illustrated with delicate watercolors.

This retelling, first published in Switzerland (and with an uncredited translation), is straightforward, allowing the soft, muted artwork to accent the details and ambiance. When the Emperor of China hears there is a nightingale that sings beautiful songs in his garden and he's never heard of it, he commands that the bird be brought to him to sing. The little gray bird's singing brings tears to his eyes, and the Emperor declares that the bird must remain at court. So it does, until the day the Emperor of Japan sends a mechanical bird encrusted with jewels, claiming his is better. From then on the mechanical bird is favored and the real nightingale forgotten—until years later, when the Emperor buys on his deathbed and the precious bejeweled bird breaks. The little gray nightingale flies to him and sings, bringing him back to life. Vainio's illustrations vary from double- and full-page spreads to small vignettes that help to break up the lengthy text blocks. The palette of light pastels elegantly captures the medieval Chinese setting and provides an effective background for the plain-colored bird with a beautiful voice.

As the opening line says, "This story happened long, long ago, but that is all the more reason for telling it again, lest it be forgotten. (Picture book/fairy tale. 5-8)

Publishers Weekly
The exquisite jacket-which features delicate red lettering on a damask-patterned gold background and a cutout revealing a painting of a nightingale-sets up high expectations, and both Mitchell (The Frog Prince) and Ibatoulline (Crossing) meet them. Elaborate, harmonious watercolors pay homage to the flat style of Chinese brush paintings with iconic fidelity; brilliant interiors crammed with architectural and sartorial details alternate with muted landscapes and ancient, unchanging rocks and trees. The illustrations sometimes appear in several long panels set side by side, like scrolls hung on a wall. Mitchell's language is light and melodic: just as Death is about to claim the Emperor, "the whole room filled with the most beautiful singing. It was the nightingale, perched on a branch right outside the window. She had heard about the Emperor's sickness and had come to bring him hope and comfort with her song." In one panel, the bird perches on a gnarled pine branch above the ornate porcelain curlicues and red tiles of the imperial palace; the next shows the reviving Emperor, his crown askew and his brocade robes creased, raising himself up to hear the voice of his loyal friend as the specter of Death departs. This volume has a more formal elegance than Jerry Pinkney's recent The Nightingale, and it is just as impressive. Ages 6-10. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Andersen's tale has certainly been retold and illustrated a few times. In this version the setting is that of the original story—China. The very wealthy Emperor lives in a marvelous palace and his gardens are equally wondrous. The nightingale lives in a nearby forest and her song is so lovely that even the fisherman stop to listen. The Emperor was proud of all of his possessions and when he heard of the nightingale he wanted it and he wanted it to appear in his court immediately. The gentlemen of the court were in a dither and finally a little kitchen made told them that she knew of the nightingale and its whereabouts. Invited to the court, the nightingale accepted and did sing for the Emperor and he was moved to tears. Then she was a captive of the court until the king received a mechanical bird, beautiful to look at but one that could only sing one song. It became quite popular and the kings favorite, but as many mechanical things do it broke down. The king seemed on the verge of death until the nightingale who had been banished from the court upon hearing of his illness came to offer comfort and indeed she managed to chase death away. By doing so, she gained her freedom and a promise from the king that he would listen his little bird and be a just and compassionate ruler. In turn, the nightingale would come back and sing for him to fill his heart with joy. The beautiful painting of the Chinese court fill the pages of this book. Some look like scrolls others are in the form of panels such as those that might appear on painted screens or wall hangings. It is a beautiful presentation and beautifully retold. It would be a great experience for kids to compare this version to the one byJerry Pinkney to see how an artist and reteller can keep the same basic story but present it in such different ways. 2002, Candlewick Press,
— Marilyn Courtot

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Product Details

North-South Books, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.70(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

Meet the Author

Pirkko Vainio is an illustrator and a graphic designer who studied at the Academy of Art in Helsinki.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 2, 1805
Date of Death:
August 4, 1875
Place of Birth:
Odense, Denmark
Place of Death:
Copenhagen, Denmark

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