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The Goblin and the Empty Chair Hardcover – September 22, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1–3—Frightened by his own reflection, a goblin lives alone, hidden away from the world. One day as he watches from a distance, he sees a farmer who is so overcome with grief that he is unable to finish his work. The next day he sees the farmer's wife and the following day his daughter, both unable to set aside their sorrow and complete their chores. For three nights, the goblin does the family's work, unaware that each member in this silent, sorrowful family has seen him. At breakfast on the fourth day, as they stare at a chair vacant since the loss of a child in the winter, they rise and place another helping of food on the table. Then they open the door. Afraid to enter, the goblin hides, but when the family gets up to leave the table, food untouched, he joins them at breakfast. Each page contains a frame with a large square picture at the bottom and a top border illustration. Small goblin heads peer out from both sides of the frame. The stylized watercolor-and-ink illustrations, done in muted tones, are attractive but static, showing characters that seem to be posing rather than being caught in the action of the moment. Like the pictures, this quiet, simply written tale lacks real drama, but its message of kindness and compassion will appeal to many readers.—Barbara Scotto, Children's Literature New England, Brookline, MA END

Review

"In this original fairy tale, acclaimed author Mem Fox tell the moving story of a lonely goblin...The illustrations by two-time Caldecott Medalists, Leo and DIane Dillon, are wonderfully expressive paintings for which the couple is famous...While the simple text can be read by children on their own, the pictures, story, and subject matter make this a natural for sharing aloud with children of all ages. Recommended."-Library Media Connection

"The Dillons' characteristic clean lines and controlled palette mirror the tender emotion of the tale while providing young viewers with plenty of visual cues to guide them along the story...this gentle read will...leave listeners safisfied."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 660L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Beach Lane Books; Complete Numbers Starting with 1, 1st Ed edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416985859
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416985853
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.4 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,451,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By The Invisible Pam TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
First let me say that "The Goblin and the Empty Chair" by Mem Fox, is not just a cute book that's a good read aloud. It is a book with a memorable story; a story with some real depth to it, and I am so thankful to be able to share this with my family.

It begins with a well garbed goblin seeing his reflection in water and deciding that he is so scary that he will hide his face away from the world. What he cannot hide, however, is his good heart, and when he sees a farmer breakdown one day, drop his tools and bury his head in his hands, the Goblin decides he must act.

Taking sympathy on the fellow the Goblin goes at night and "[H]e dug where digging was needed. He chopped where chopping was needed." And "[H]e painted where painting was needed. And was careful not to be seen."

In a short course of time, something similar happens with the farmer's wife and the farmer's daughter. They are overwhelmed by their burdens, and in each case, the Goblin goes and does what needs to be done... quietly, and secretly. Or so he thinks.

**if you don't like spoilers you might want to skip down to Talking Points**

The book ends with the family sitting down for a meal. They look at the empty chair at their table. The mother gets up and gets a setting for it. The daughter then goes and opens the door, and they wait for the Goblin to join them. After some delay, he does, and then the little girl takes away the wrap that the Goblin has been using all these years to hide his face. Then they smile at one another and dine.

I hardly ever go into so much detail in my reviews, but I felt compelled to do that for this book because it has such as lovely message.
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Format: Hardcover
This is one of those remarkable picture books that stuns the reader into thinking, or perhaps saying out loud, "Wow. I better read this again." On the surface it is a tale of a goblin who despite his wealth and efforts to be helpful considers himself too ugly to participate at any level in the real world, so he hides himself away in his castle. Counterpoint to that is a family whose loss (while untold in the text but inferred by a picture on one page) is unspeakable and bottomless. They set an empty place at their table each night to commemorate their loss. But in this particular storypiece, they invite in the goblin. Will he or won't he? And is his ugliness as bad as all that? Swathed in a scarf, his green skin and long pointy fingernails notwithstanding, he is welcomed to the human table. We never do see his face. But we know that all will be well. The ending picture, the denouement, is the back cover, in which the goblin weclomes the family to his castle. The illustrations are stunning, subtle, with a "preview" frame above the main picture of each page serving as narrative sidebars to the text in this exquisite marriage of text and illustration. It is at its heart a story of how we all judge ourselves too ugly too fat too old too something and thus cut ourselves off from others. It is also a story of the power of pain to provoke acceptance, and that estrangement may (or may not) yield to hospitality and invitation. A mysterious, marvelous, perfect picture book, alchemical in its connection of text and art, transforming all elements into gold.
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Format: Hardcover
After Goblin sees his frightening reflection in a pond, he hides himself away for many lonely years to keep from frightening others. One day, however, he spies a farmer who, seemingly overcome with grief, leaves his work unfinished. Goblin comes in the night and finishes the farmer's tasks when he feels certain that no one will be watching. Ah, but the farmer, unable to sleep, watches from the window.

Repeating this pattern with the farmer's wife and daughter, this story has all the finest fairy tale elements. The empty chair of the title is never explained, but the implication is that the family members are grieving for the person who once sat at the table with them. The exquisite, framed illustrations greatly expand the story. For instance, on the farmhouse walls, there are pictures of a boy. The illustrations also show that the green, but tall and elegant goblin always keeps the
lower part of his face covered with a scarf. In the denouement, as Goblin finally sits in the empty chair, the family smiles as the girl unwinds the scarf. In the type of fascinating element that causes children to return to a story repeatedly, the illustrations never show the goblin's face. Beautiful and intriguing.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book was great but your shipping was terrible. I've already wrote and told you about this. Guess your departments don't talk to each other. The book was put in the box loose, no wrapping with other items I'd ordered. The books flyleaf was torn, decreasing the value of the book, making it look used, It was a gift and I was very disappointed in your packing and shipping methods. I will in the future not order books with other items to avoid this situation or shop else ware.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book to my 8/9 year olds and they got the messages. You can be ugly on the outside and beautiful on the inside. You can fill the space of another making it easier to cope with their loss. This story is very special.
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