Sunday, March 27, 2011

SPL Shelf Life [kids]

These reviews appeared in the Stratford Gazette on March 24, 2011
Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian

Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow, retold by Robert San Souci, 26 pages.
@ SPL: JP Robin-S
This classic story, which dates from about 1450, has been newly retold by award-winning author Robert San Souci and beautifully illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Robin Hood and his band of loyal followers, sought by the greedy Sheriff of Nottingham, can’t resist partaking in an archery contest in which the prize is a golden arrow. Aware that the Sheriff is likely planning to arrest Robin and his men at the event, they disguise themselves, dying their hair, adapting eye patches and exchanging their usual clothes for others. The Sheriff fails to recognize them. Robin places first in the contest, winning the golden arrow – which is presented by the Sheriff himself.
Later, Robin can’t resist shooting an arrow from afar into the Sheriff’s banquet hall. Attached is a poem revealing his true identity. The enraged Sheriff realizes that once again, Robin Hood and his Merry Men have escaped him.
Readers will be intrigued by this story of a long-ago hero who is still very popular with children. San Souci’s version is especially worthy of attention, with its straightforward text and the watercolour art of acclaimed illustrator E.B. White, which features the mottled shades of green and the dappled light of a forest setting. The characters in the story are given very realistic facial expressions, and the result is a detailed visual treat that preserves the essence of this beloved tale.
** Recommended for ages 5 to 9 years.

Black Beauty, retold by Sharon Lerner, 40 pages.
@ SPL: JP Sewel
Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (first published in 1877) is another classic which has recently been republished as a picture book for younger children. Again, it is the illustrations which really “shine” in this adaptation, thanks to artist Susan Jeffers, a Caldecott Award winner whose work has been displayed at various major art museums throughout the United States. Her detailed depictions of Black Beauty and the other horses, rendered in vivid watercolour, do full justice to these magnificent animals.
Told from the horse’s point of view, Black Beauty recounts the familiar story of the stallion who leads a comfortable life until he is sold to a series of owners, some of whom are quite cruel. After enduring years of hardships and drudgery, Black Beauty is reunited with Joe Green, a kind groom who had cared for him as a colt. He retires to a farm where he is happy and free to run in a beautiful meadow, loved and treasured by his new family. 
Sharon Lerner’s abridged adaptation is quite suitable for a young audience, omitting some of the “dark” incidents of Anna Sewell’s original story such as the stable fire and the death of another horse, Ginger.
It is interesting to note that Black Beauty, written “to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses”, was Anna Sewell’s only novel, and it was not written for children. Upon publication, which was only five months before Sewell’s death, it was an immediate success and it has remained so, becoming one of the best-selling books of all time.
** Recommended for ages 4 to 8 years.

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