From Publishers Weekly
In Northern Italy, legend has it that the weather is so cold during the last three days of January that the white doves that take shelter in the chimney tops emerge black from soot. The Italians call this time of year "Le Giornate della Merla" (the Days of the Blackbird), and thereby hangs a tale-or, at least, it has inspired dePaola to create this well-seasoned offering. As he explains in an afterword, his story is a sort of Italian "Emperor's Nightingale," featuring a duke, his devoted daughter and a particularly beautiful white dove whose sweet song sustains the nobleman through a long winter of illness. DePaola spins the tale with panache, imbuing it with a folktale-like timelessness, and artistically it's clear he was delighted to return once again to his beloved Italy for visual cues. The pages radiate warmth, from the picturesque late medieval setting and the terra cotta or blue-green houses with their tiled roofs, to the jewel-colored birds and flowers of the duke's garden. A sprinkling of Italian words and phrases adds an authentic flavor. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 4. An original folktale with roots in a winter legend from northern Italy. A wise, benevolent Duke lives with his daughter, Gemma, in a house in the middle of town. The two spend much time in their courtyard listening to the exuberant songs of birds of many colors. When the Duke is stricken with a life-threatening illness, a pure white bird, La Colomba, remains through the harsh winter, singing outside the man's window. Seeking brief respite from the cold in chimney tops turns its feathers solid black. La Colomba is never again pure white, but the Duke regains his health, declaring the coldest days of January the "Days of the Blackbird." The moving story is elegantly, yet simply, told. The artist combines his recognizable style with visual elements reminiscent of Italian frescoes. Watercolor background washes create a marbleized effect. Color choices portray the warmth and serenity the story suggests. A successful and satisfying union of narration and illustration.?Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.