In this resonant work from the pair who collaborated on Elisabeth and the Water-Troll , the depth and richness of Wangerin's text is deftly matched by Healy's dynamic oil paintings. Branta is a girl who lives alone in a cottage on a lake ``on the northernmost island in all the world.'' She remembers her father, a magus, who on his deathbed gave Branta his most prized possession: the Golden Stone that he had taken as a gift to a Baby King born long before in a distant kingdom. When this Child touched the stone, He left a deep print and the stone was imbued with the power to make people ``whatever they wanted to be.'' Rather than leave his gift, Branta's father slipped it back into his pouch, and for years used its magic--to good and ill effect. Frustrated when she cannot lure a family of geese indoors to save them from a fierce winter storm, Branta calls on the power of the Golden Stone to change herself into one of them, bringing this graceful, timeless tale to an inventive close. Ages 4-8. ( Sept. )
A family's tale is revealed in Branta and the Golden Stone. Branta's dying father unburdens himself and shamefully tells of his past, particularly why he has raised her in isolation, and of a magic stone. After his death, alone and lonely, Branta becomes very close to a family of wild geese. Fearing their deaths, she wishes herself to become a goose and truly becomes part of their family.
Gr 3-6-On his deathbed, Branta's father tells her that many years ago he foretold the birth of a Baby King and journeyed with his brothers to see the child and bring him gifts. When the magus saw the power given to a nugget of gold by the Babe's touch, he kept it. He came to regret that decision, and to avoid causing more harm withdrew, with his daughter, to the remote island where they live. Now alone, Branta is delighted when spring brings a pair of geese to the island, followed by six goslings. When a storm threatens the flock, the girl uses the gold to become one of them and herds them into her warm cottage.. This is a lengthy, thoughtful tale for mature readers and patient listeners. Most children will recognize the parts of the Christmas Story that are incorporated here, but may be disappointed when the tale goes off in its own fanciful direction. Healy's richly colored, expansive illustrations, many of which are full-page, are somewhat abstract but still expressive. The heroine is a dark-skinned, dark-eyed beauty. Wangerin's unusual story is reminiscent of Andersen's tales in its length and element of tragedy, but both characters and setting seem so distant that it will spark interest and curiosity more than empathy or grief. Useful where there is an audience for long, well-illustrated fairy tales.-Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA
Branta "lived alone on the northernmost island in all the world." She had not always lived by herself. Once she lived with her father, one of the three Magi. But being a wise man had brought her father only sorrow, because he had kept for himself the Golden Stone touched by the Christ child. On his deathbed, he told Branta his sad tale and revealed the stone's secret--the stone would transform her into whatever she wished, but she would have to stay that way forever. Branta's loneliness is relieved when two geese arrive to hatch and raise six goslings. When the eight birds prepare to fly south, however, they are trapped by a blizzard. Seeing no other way to help them, Branta wishes on the stone, is turned into a goose, and herds the birds into her house to survive the storm near a warm fire. When the storm ends, nine geese fly south. The picture book format is attractive. Healy's paintings--some large double-page spreads and some almost miniature in size--have a folk-art feeling to them, with the earthy tones in some of the scenes contrasting nicely with the cooler colors in others.