From Publishers Weekly
Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale of a jaded ruler who learns to appreciate simple beauty receives a vivacious if loquacious treatment in this handsome picture book. For the most part, Waters spins the familiar story with aplomb; her prose, both pungent and humorous (as when she describes the palace made of fine porcelain "which did not make it the most comfortable place to live in as you always had to be rather careful where you sat"), adheres closely to Andersen's original plot and structure. Occasionally, however, the narrative gets flabby (e.g., when the kitchen maid leads the Emperor's courtiers to the nightingale: "By now the great trail of people had reached the forest and quite a few of them were looking decidedly nervous at the thought of walking in under the trees, which looked very forbidding in the dusk"). Birkbeck's meticulous illustrations take full advantage of the exotic setting in ancient China. He dedicates as much attention to the lush imperial garden planted in a riot of colors as he does a courtyard's-eye view of the hustle and bustle throughout the palace's many roomsAkitchen and treasure-house, bedroom and office. And Andersen's message is as fitting today as when he first wrote of the nightingale's healing powers. Ages 8-11. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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From School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Waters retells Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale in clear, crisp language that captures the essence of the story without rendering it sterile. She chooses the best and most vivid images in the original story, and her writing is graceful and lucid. She makes a few changes, the most significant of which is that she omits the image of Death crouching on the dying emperor's chest. Instead, the ruler reflects on his good and bad deeds himself. While purists may disagree, the power of the story is not diminished by the change, and it extends the age range that would be receptive to it. Furthermore, the characterizations rely less on stereotypes and are allowed a degree of humanity not present in Eva Le Gallienne's translation in The Nightingale (HarperCollins, 1965), illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Birkbeck's jewel-toned tapestrylike illustrations are lush and rich with detail, employing light and shadow effectively. They also contain deft touches of humor, as when the courtiers are tearing the palace apart to look for the nightingale. Unlike Burkert's illustrations or those by Lisbeth Zwerger (North-South, 1999), they do not emulate Asian art. Children and adults alike will enjoy poring over the distinctive and striking pages.-Donna L. Scanlon, Lancaster Area Library, PA
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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