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.
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,
K-Gr 4-- Lewis' translation of Andersen's familiar story is well written and easily understood, and the delicate, jeweled-toned watercolors are among the best available to invoke the mood of the story. This book joins nine other picture-book editions of the story currently in print, but is a worthy purchase because of the quality of the illustrations. Also, Lewis has elected a simple version which, while maintaining the flavor of the original, presents the story in a style easily understood by children of today. To do this, she has eliminated some delightful passages that might be appreciated by older children. Thus, while this version is a delight for younger audiences, a second one with a more complete translation should also be available. --Constance A. Mellon, Department of Library & Information Studies, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
Hot new illustrator Ibatoulline (Signs for Sale, p. 579, etc.) exchanges sentimental, Norman Rockwell–like realism for elaborate chinoiserie to go with a gently massaged version of Andersen’s popular tale. Mitchell leaves the original, with its satiric views of court life and the contrasting tenderness of the relationship between Emperor and avian mentor, intact, adding an occasional bit of amusing officiousness and loosening up stiff dialogue. Ibatoulline passes up the fun-poking in favor of richly decorated scenes filled with brightly patterned clothing, ornate architecture, and finely detailed sceneryplus enough individualism in gestures and facial expressions to avoid becoming generic. Editions of Nightingale abound, but this makes a sumptuous, readable alternative that is true to its original. (afterword) (Picture book. 7-10)
"An unusually beautiful version of an old favorite." Book Magazine on The Ugly Duckling, illustrated by Pirkko Vainio.