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László Gál
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1993. 40pp,
cloth, $19.99, ISBN 0-7710-3301-X. CIP

Subject Headings:
Fairy tales.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10

Reviewed by Gillian Martin Noonan

Volume 22 Number 3
1994 May / June

Ingrid is the youngest and most beautiful child of a poor woodcutter and his wife. So that his family will no longer have to live in poverty, the woodcutter gives Ingrid to a mysterious white bear. Ingrid's new life with the bear in a far away castle is quite wonderful. She has all that she wants and the bear is good to her, but Ingrid misses her family. A visit to her family, now surrounded by prosperity, precipitates disaster for Ingrid and the bear. To undo an evil spell, Ingrid must use all her cunning to find her way to the castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon.

László Gál, the award-winning illustrator, has retold and illustrated this traditional Norwegian folk-tale in fine style. The full-page illustrations are filled with vivid yet soft colours and have a decidedly medieval flavour to them. Gál's illustration of the South Wind is particularly noteworthy.

The text is straightforward, allowing the illustrations to descriptively enrich the tale. Some young readers may find this story rather slow-paced and drawn out but all should find the ending quite satisfactory.

Folk-tales come from a markedly different era than the one in which we now live. This characteristic should always be kept in mind when they are being read. Nevertheless, this reviewer feels quite strongly that the imagery connected with a "mysterious man" lying in bed with Ingrid at night, with the bear warning Ingrid not to talk to her mother alone, and with Ingrid's mother expressing concern to her youngest daughter about who or what this "mysterious man" is may have disturbing associations for some readers. It is unfortunate that our awareness of the crassness in humanity may cause us to spurn some of the best stories in literature.

This edition of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" is not necessarily a must have for any library. Many collections will already hold it. Gál's illustrations are quite beautiful and, for those interested in his work or that of other Canadian illustrators, this is a fine example.

Gillian Martin Noonan is a teacher-librarian living in Old Perlican, Newfoundland

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