The Three Golden Keys

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Overview

World-renowned artist brings the magic of Prague and its legends to life

In this allegorical tale, a man in a hot-air ballon is thrown off course in a violent storm, landing him in the city of his youth. He finds the way to his old home, but the house is dark, with three rusty padlocks on the door. A black cat with eyes of fire appears and leads him through Prague's silent streets and monuments in seach of the three golden keys that will open the door of his boyhood home and ...

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Overview

World-renowned artist brings the magic of Prague and its legends to life

In this allegorical tale, a man in a hot-air ballon is thrown off course in a violent storm, landing him in the city of his youth. He finds the way to his old home, but the house is dark, with three rusty padlocks on the door. A black cat with eyes of fire appears and leads him through Prague's silent streets and monuments in seach of the three golden keys that will open the door of his boyhood home and restore the city to life. In this reissue of one of his most personal works, Peter Sís recaptures the wonder of his own lost childhood in Prague and celebrates the city's wonderful cultural heritage, reborn after forty-five years of Communist rule. He wrote it for his young daughter, Madeleine, who is growing up in the New World, so that when she is old enough to understand it she will have a record of the strange and wonderful heritage that is her birthright. An utterly magical book on every level.

Led by a cat on a magical journey through the deserted streets of Prague, a man comes upon some of the city's landmarks and finds the keys to his childhood home in three traditional Czech tales.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
Sís . . . succeeded in creating a book not only for his child, but for the adult she will one day be.
New York Times Book Review
The fairy-tale [Prague] has found its artist in Peter Sfs.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With his stunning artwork and resonant, enigmatic prose, Sis (Komodo; Follow the Dream) fashions an entrancing, mystical allegory about the complicated history of his native Prague. After a ``wild and turbulent storm'' blows him ``far off course,'' a balloonist find himself ``floating toward the spires of a big city.'' Realizing he has returned to Prague, the city of his childhood, the narrator locates his family's home. But three rusty padlocks encrust the door. Guided by a black cat (``Can it really be my cat after all these years?''), the man searches for the three keys. Each is contained in a Czech legend he learned as a child; all three stories are incorporated here on self-contained spreads. A single wash of color enhances the detailed, pen-and-ink illustrations, and each picture is framed in gold against parchment-like paper. Ghostly faces and figures emanate from buildings, plants and other everyday objects, echoing the ethereal quality of the tale, and suggesting the continued existence of what the author terms ``hobgoblins.'' Sis dedicates the story to his American-born daughter in a heartfelt letter that encapsulates the depth of his feelings about the importance of a sense of place and a sense of home. A treasure. All ages. (Nov.)
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-When a storm blows a man's hot-air balloon off-course, he lands in a city where everything recalls his childhood in Prague. He finds the family house but it is locked with three rusty padlocks. He follows the family cat through the empty streets to the library, the Emperor's garden, and the famous town-square clock. In each place, figures from the past emerge from the walls and unroll a scroll that holds a key and relates the traditional Czech legends of Prince Bruncvik and his magic sword, the Golem, and Hanus the clockmaker. With the three keys in hand, he returns home where he recollects voices, sounds, and pictures. From the foreword to his daughter to the first-person voice, Ss has created a personal journey that is multilayered with images, memories, and symbols. The art itself is layered with felines, faces, and ghostly figures imposed over backgrounds, camouflaged in streets and structures, and emerging from misty reflections. With tiny, delicate lines and meshlike textures, the artist's distinctive style is evocative. The scroll stories are handscripted in numbered sequences with a pictogram bordering the two-page spreads. The tiny handwriting is so intricate it requires close focus. Overall the book is intriguing, with visual and textual subtleties interconnecting with cultural and historical ties. Older picture book readers should appreciate the beauty of the illustrations and the symbolism.-Julie Cummins, New York Public Library
Carolyn Phelan
The text of this picture book, addressed to his young daughter, Madeleine, tells of Sis' taking a fantasy journey back to the Prague of his childhood. Although he follows his cat back to his old home, he cannot enter without keys to the three padlocks on the door. He wanders through the city, where bizarre forms of animals and people, such as a librarian made of books, appear. Three times, figures give him scrolls, each containing a story from his childhood and a golden key. The artwork consists of exquisite fine-line drawings, with subtle washes creating somewhat obscure, mysterious scenes superimposed with wraithlike figures. A highly original and personal picture book, this may well interest art critics more than children. Still, larger libraries should consider it for their collections.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374375256
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 64
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.31 (w) x 11.89 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Sis was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and studied painting and filmmaking at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague, and at the Royal College of Art in London. He has written and illustrated many award-winning books for children, including the Caldecott Honor-winning Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei and Tibet Through the Red Box. He lives in Paris, France and New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2002

    A Timeless Treasure.

    The illustrations in this book are masterful! I highly recommend this book to anyone aged 8 to adult who appreciates fine art. I have even shared this book with younger children who have loved it. Sis is inspired by the artwork of Giuseppe Arcimboldo. It is easy to look at Arcimboldo's artwork on the internet and to see the similarities. Sis visited Arcimboldo's The Librarians as a boy at the library in Prague. Sis' love for Prague is communicated in the pages of this story. I love owning this book. I don't get tired of reading it or sharing it with children. This story is uniquely imaginitive and would be enjoyed by any child or adult who thinks creatively.

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