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Gwinna Hardcover – October 23, 1990

4.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Gwinna, Berger (Grandfather Twilight; The Donkey's Dream; When the Sun Rose) has written and illustrated a magnificent fairy tale of wonder, beauty and power. Gwinna, an en chanted child with wings growing from her back, is given as a fosterling to a childless human couple by the Mother of the Owls. As Gwinna grows, her foster parents try to hide her wings, then refuse to honor their promise to return her, but the Mother of the Owl's magic is too strong for them and Gwinna is summoned to her true home. There she learns to fly and sets off on a mystical quest across the sea to an ice-capped mountain, where she fulfills a lifelong dream by carving herself a harp and learning to play it. No brief recap of Gwinna's plot can do justice to all its subtleties or to its profound imagery. Berger tells her long tale in simple, direct prose that illuminates its allegorical aspects with impressive clarity while keeping the action and adventure flowing smooth ly. This accomplishment is especially remarkable as Gwinna is Berger's lon gest text by far; in her earlier, shorter work, she has relied on her shimmer ing acrylic paintings to create the ethereal mood that is her trademark. Happily, Berger has not stinted on the pictures here either. Gwinna is graced with 18 full-page paintings, one two- page painting and many smaller in sets and decorations that capture the action's high points. In the realm of children's fantasies, Gwinna com pares with George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin and C. S. Lew is's Chronicles of Narnia. With the publication of this story, Berger takes her place with the best talents in the field, past and present. Ages 6-up.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-- In this original folktale, a woman longing for a baby accepts help from the Mother of the Owls, then fails to keep her promise to give up the child. The debt is collected, and the little girl, true to her origins, has grown wings. As she learns to use them, Gwinna is attracted by a song coming from a magical mountain, and sets off to learn its mysteries. The familiar folkloric influences of Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty , and other tales of quests, talking beasts, magical metamorphoses, and the use of traditional symbols are woven into Berger's story, together with an overlay of more contemporary ideals. The portrayal of the Mother of the Owls as a stern, but ultimately good figure is an interesting switch from the wicked fairies who usually make such bargains, and Gwinna's perseverance on her quest with the help not of a handsome prince but of a grandfatherly griffin are refreshing variations on ancient themes. The text at its best is poetic, even lyrical, but it lacks the spare language of the old stories. The first half of the story reads well, but once Gwinna sets off on her quest, the dialogue in particular shows a tendency to gush. However, the illustrations show no such imbalances. They range from small decorations to a lovely double-page spread, enriched with luminous color and movement that flows generously beyond the celtic margins. A book for libraries in which the demand for fantasy is insatiable. --Barbara Hutcheson, Greater Victoria Public Library, B.C., Canada
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 6
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Philomel (October 23, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039921738X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399217388
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.6 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have fallen deeply in love with the stories of Barbara Helen Berger. She is a visual artist of stunning talent. Her pictures breathe with life and light. Her words are even more captivating. They are clear and precise...flowing like water from a mountain spring.
Gwinna is, in my opinion, Berger's masterpiece. At just over a hundred pages, it is a longer work. While Grandfather Twilight, A Lot of Otters, and the Donkey's Dream are great books for children, I would have to recommend Gwinna to children who are a little older or more mature.
Gwinna, at its heart, is a story of many things: it is a story about needing others, it is a story about giving, a story of love and faith and being true. It was a difficult story for me. I often suffer from knowing all too well were a plot is going to go before it gets there...to my delight, Gwinna kept me guessing.
The highest recommendation I can give, I give to Gwinna. It is a fine thing to read a story where the character grows in wondrous and moving ways within the imagination. The reader (unless they miss the story completely) must grow in turn. Gwinna is such a story...get it today.
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Format: Hardcover
When I was first given Gwinna as a birthday present(oh, I don't rember what birthday!)I must admit I thought....."Yuck! ANOTHER book, what are my parents thinking? I want a Barbie." Well, I got a Barbie as the next package, but Gwinna has stuck with me much longer. This book is one of the best I have ever read. The moving story is backed up by some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen. Gwinna takes you to a place that you always knew existed, you just didn't know it exited anywhere beyond you own heart. As you are spun from word to word, and page to page, you will really feel as if you are flying. Now, on the main "Gwinna review page" it says this book is for ages three to eight. Well, I am fourteen going on fifteen, and Gwinna remains a huge influence on my life and one of my favorite books. When I say influence, I mean the same influence you get from reading someone like Tolkien or hearing a beautiful peice of music. Gwinna is a book that makes you feel as if you can reach out and feel the breath of its chairicters. If that doesn't convince you that this is a good book, I don't know what will.
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Format: Hardcover
Gwinna is, hands down one of the best books I have ever read. Its moving and beautiful text are backed up by brilliant, exhilirating pictures. When recently I needed to find a gift for my 10 year old cousin I remembered this book. By checking with my aunt and uncle I discovered (to my horror) that we had never sent her this book. Needless to say, I jumped on this as the perfect gift. If any of you are picky shoppers (like me) you will know how hard the perfect gift is to find. It is not just for a ten year old that I would recomed this book either, it's still one of my favorites. Gwinna is one book I can say, without a doubt influenced me. It is the most moving "flight of fancy" imaginable. I recomend this book to anyone who has ever wished for wing to fly out over the horizon. I recomend it even more strongly to those of you who have not, because after Gwinna, you will.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gwinna charms and teaches and is glowing with images both delicate and powerful. The wisdom here far outreaches the genre of a children's book and speaks to us all of outgrowing our intermediate comforts and becoming what is next.
This is the tale of initiation, not into the adult world but where even adults fear to go, to be fully human and then to return and offer your gifts. Gwinna is a challenge to us all.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love this book. I have my old copy from 20+ years ago when I bought it for my daughters. I bought a second copy - so I could pass one on to my daughters' children as they have them. It is a children's book - appeals to children - and it is a beautiful mystical book for adults, if you understand alchemy and transformation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of the finest children's books ever published. Loved it as a kid but never owned it; just bought one for myself and another for a friend. We're both late 20s/early 30s and this book is still absolute magic. Recommended for fans of The Last Unicorn, Celtic mythology, and Miyazaki films. Terrible shame it's out of print.
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Format: Hardcover
I absolutely loved Gwinna after reading it for the first time in third grade. Now, in high school, I love to relax and just absorb the beautiful pictures and magical story. This book has left a lasting impression on me.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this sweet book to replace one given to my daughter, who now has a daughter of her own. She had loved it as a child so much, she wanted to share it with her. I'm going to use her words as she described the book to me when we began our search.
" I recall it being the most beautiful book I had ever seen, the illustrations were stunning and they always made me want to open it and read it over and over again. I loved the story, about Gwinna. It was magical to me as a child and I want to share it with my baby, teach her to have that much love for a book as I did, for all books! "
Yes, I whole-heatedly recommend it!
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