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Retold by Michael Bedard. Illustrated by Regolo Ricci.
Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press, 1991.
28pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 0-19540-814-4.. CIP.

Subject Headings:
Nightingales-Juvenile fiction.
Fairy tales.

Kindergarten-grade 5 / Ages 5-10

Reviewed by Gwen Maguire.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

This picture-book is the retelling of a classic fairy-tale originally written by Hans Christian Andersen. Bedard, the author, uses descriptive and colourful language to relate the ancient tale of a Chinese emperor who ruled over a huge empire and lived in the most magnificent palace in the world.

Visitors come from every country to view the city and to see the beautiful palace and gardens. Although they admire what they see, they are most impressed when they hear the melodious song of the exquisite nightingale. When the emperor hears of this, he has the bird captured and keeps it in a golden cage as his most prized possession. Then one day a gift arrives from the emperor of Japan. It is a mechanical bird studded all over with diamonds, sapphires and pearls and is designed to sing one of the songs sung by the real nightingale. The emperor soon prizes this mechanical bird more than the real one. In the end, it is the real nightingale which brings life back to a dying emperor.

The illustrator, Regolo Ricci uses carefully detailed, colourful and truly scenic illustrations to enrich and enhance the story. The contrast and blending of light and dark shades, the detailed facial expressions of the characters, and the exquisite beauty of the gardens and flowers add feeling and vitality to the tale and give the reader a true sense of actually being there in the beautiful gardens of the emperor's palace itself.

Text and illustrations combine to make this book an adventurous and appealing one, which offers the young reader a wonderful taste of past Chinese culture. In fact, through the artistry of the author and illustrator, one can almost hear the melodious singing of the nightingale and experience the sounds and feelings of a time so long ago.

This book represents a third publication for both author and illustrator. The Lightning Bolt (Oxford University Press, 1989) and The Tinder Box ¹ are two of their previous publications.

I would highly recommend this picture-book as an excellent choice for both Primary and lower elementary classroom teachers, and it would also make a wonderful addition to any child's personal library.

Gwen Maguire, St. John's, NF.

¹ Reviewed vol. XVIII/5 September 1990, p. 216.

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