In contrast to Bateman's light-hearted Keeper of Soles, this fairy tale comes across as solemn and high-minded. In it, a servant girl helps a unicorn evade slaughter by her former playmate, the duke's son. Newcomer Spalenka's gaudy, digitally manipulated illustrations, however, compete for readers' attention, with distracting combinations of superimposed medieval ornaments, photographs of some characters (specifically of Tanisa, the servant girl), painted still lifes and other elements. The text explains that Tanisa and the duke's son, Chris, have grown apart, and that Chris's once-pure heart has been twisted by his power-hungry father. The scenes jump from one to the next, in a few places resembling stills in a book adaptation of a movie. The climax feels medicinal: the unicorn, eluding the whole court, finds refuge in Tanisa's lap, but Chris aims his arrow at it. The unicorn first heals the wound Chris accidentally inflicts on Tanisa, then tenderly places his horn on Chris's heart. "When Chris opened his eyes again they were filled with the joy [Tanisa] remembered from when they were children." The story's message is lost in the unicorn magic, faux courtly prose ("on the morrow she would rest") and superficial images. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
The Eyes of the Unicornby Teresa Bateman, Greg Spalenka
The hunt for the unicorn is underway, for the Duke and his men are greedy for its magical horn. As the nobles ride off on their fine steeds, Tanisa, the exhausted serving girl, finally has a chance to rest. She awakens to two astonishing sights: a pure white unicorn resting his head in her lap and the Duke's son, whose arrow is poised to slay the beast. But the unicorn's eyes possess great powers. If the Duke's son dares to gaze into them, nearly anything could happen.
"Few men will dare to look into a unicorn's eyes." Sung by a visiting minstrel, these words only fire the hunting enthusiasm of the Duke's nobles in this opulent romance. In keeping with old stories of the fabled beast, the unicorn befriends Tanisa, a kind serving girl, and lays his head in her lap as she dozes in a meadow. She's then wounded in trying to shield him from the flying arrow shot by the Duke's son, her former childhood playmate. Now nearly grown, Chris is bent on killing the creature both for the wealth its carcass will bring and to gain his father's approval. Stunned that he has wounded Tanisa, he looks into the unicorn's eyes. Of course, his hardened heart is softened and her wound is healed by the unicorn's touch. Promising to rule with wisdom when he comes into adulthood, Chris sends the girl and the unicorn off into hiding to await a safer time. Lavish scenes rendered in Photoshop blend photographs of the humans and their horses and dogs with painted landscapes and unicorns. Darkened views shot with golden lighting, lengthened images, and occasional blurred focus lend a dramatic, surreal tone to the rather hackneyed scenario. The vigorous, cinematic views and the hint of future love fit a traditional fairy-tale niche.
Margaret BushCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Meet the Author
Teresa Bateman is the author of many lively stories for children. Keeper of Soles was an ALA Notable Book, a Horn Book Fanfare book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon book, and a Kirkus Reviews Editor's Choice. She lives in Tacoma, Washington where she is also a children's librarian.
Greg Spalenka is a fine artist and illustrator, who has created dozens of covers for books. He has also worked as an animator on the feature film The Ant Bully. Greg Spalenka makes an auspicious picture book debut with astonishingly lavish illustrations for this entrancing story. His home is in Woodland Hills, California.
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