Publishers Weekly - Publisher's WeeklyThis sophisticated collaboration from the creators of Pish, Posh Said Hieronymus Bosch reinvents a magical tale that is perhaps best known to young readers from Walt Disney's Fantasia. Willard's vivid rhyming text conjures up a fantasy world ruled by old Tottibo, a magician who ``stood so tall his very shadow chilled them all.'' Red-haired Sylvia volunteers to be his new assistant and takes on the task of clothing every one of his creatures. From ``bibs well-matched for baby dragons newly hatched'' to ``cloaks to clothe the lesser things,'' Sylvia has a daunting list of garments to sew, and can hardly be blamed for calling on a little magic to speed things up. However, when the newly enlivened sewing machine bares a set of gleaming steel teeth and takes to the air, magical mayhem ensues. The glee-filled text speeds along to a pleasing conclusion, stopping only to challenge the reader with an interesting word choice or image (``a famished stretch of sky''). Distilling the frenzied energy of the text, the Dillons' majestic artwork captures the story's essence and, with its quiet sheen, invokes the timelessness of fairy tales. All ages. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Susie WildeNancy Willard recasts The Sorcerer's Apprentice when she views the world through the eyes of plucky Sylvia who comes to work for the magician Tottibo. As with so many of Willard's books, her skillful weaving of word, wit, and story that will be enjoyed by both children and adults. Her rhythms, word sounds, call for reading aloud and her eye for detail and sophisticated play upon traditions can't help but make an adult marvel. Sylvia is commissioned to make clothes for all the creatures in Tottibo's care, "For plump or puny, large or lean,/ you'll have my trusty sewing machine." Sylvia's response is proper for both the traditional apprentice and a young woman who eschews tradition. "But I want magic," Sylvia cried. And magic she gets, as Willard works her enchantment to a satisfying end with measured meters as sure as a Tottibo's power. The illustrations by Leo and Diane Dillon are as rich and as sure a path to propelling readers into another world as an expert sorcerer's spells.
School Library Journal - School Library JournalGr 4-8-Sylvia, a long-legged, red-headed adolescent, arrives at the Magician Tottibo's to sew clothes for his fantastic menagerie (dragons, gryphons, a black panther, and more). She wants magic, but Tottibo demurs: "`A single lapse in common sense/can have a fatal consequence.'" While the magician naps, Sylvia, tired and tempted, pours magic sand on the antiquated sewing machine. It goes berserk and wreaks havoc, hemming trees, stitching a mountain upside down, snipping the sun and moon. The magician wakes and sets all to right. On the last page, a grown-up Sylvia is wearing Tottibo's pendant and doing the teaching. In previous tellings of this fable, the apprentice uses magic to ease the thankless and repetitive drudgery of water-carrying. By making the misuse of magic turn a machine against its environment, Willard allows (without explicitly encouraging) a contemporary ecological reading. The Dillons have worked their usual magic on the illustrations. Clear, saturated colors and a touch of Art Nouveau style are vehicles for whimsy that is never cute or cloying. Detail-packed, the pictures beg for repeat viewing as the rhythmic verses roll on. A welcome return visit to a tale too long dominated by Disney.-Patricia Dooley, formerly at University of Washington, Seattle
Hazel RochmanThe old story of the powerful magician and the awkward apprentice who messes with the magic has been told again and again from ancient Greece to Goethe to Disney's "Fantasia". In this version for the 1990s, the apprentice-hero is a confident young woman. With long red hair, checked trousers, and high-heeled clogs, Sylvia comes riding up to the sorcerer's mountain on an old-fashioned large-wheeled bike. As in her 1982 Newbery Medal-winning "A Visit to William Blake's Inn", Willard tells her story in lively rhyme that jumps with the unexpected. The Dillons' full-page watercolors, exquisitely drawn in meticulous detail, show domestic uproar just about to burst out of the tight gold frames. In fact, there are a few tiny spot illustrations outside the frame on each page. The sorcerer's house has 57 doors and "knockers made of gnashing teeth"; there are eyes everywhere, and his creatures are neurotic, brooding, sinister, and clownish. Words and pictures work together perfectly to make us see that chaos is "very near"; everything is in a state of transformation. The more you look, the more shapes change and slither and leap out as something different. The best scene of all shows the sorcerer ordering the dishes to wash each other ("The spoons leapt up and scrubbed the plates"). He's in control. In contrast, when Sylvia's task is to make clothes for all the creatures, she can't control anything. She's overwhelmed; even the scissors try to bite her hand. In desperation, she pours the sorcerer's potion on the sewing machine--and creates the wildest nightmare. The machine reveals its monstrous teeth: it bursts from the house and hems the trees; it stitches the mountains, snips the moon, bites the sun, until the sorcerer returns and order is restored. In a lovely last line, Willard gives the old cautionary tale a moral for today: Sylvia has learned to turn "failures into fairy tales."
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