The Trow-Wife's Treasure

Olivier Dunrea, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-37792-2
Meticulously yet unassumingly wrought in both text and art, this fairy tale possesses a distinct and ancient flavor. Bracken Van Eyck is more than content to tend his small farm and enjoy the companionship of his loyal dog, Caleb, on a mythical European island. On a typical day, ""he worked in the fields. He played with Caleb and read his books. He helped his neighbors if they needed him."" And when a distraught trow-wife (a troll-like creature) appears and asks Bracken's help in finding her baby, who has been whisked away by the wind, Bracken calmly assists her. The trow-wife thanks Bracken for his trouble by presenting him with an unusual hen--one that will deliver a special treasure after a year and a day. Dunrea's (The Painter Who Loved Chickens) spare sentences skillfully convey a colorful adventure, while the trow-wife's dialect (""Can thoo no help me find me bairn?"") signals her otherworldly spirit. Bracken's good nature is the star here; the man himself appears almost stoic, his facial features obscured by a wide-brimmed brown hat and a bushy black beard. Precise gouache paintings of realistic livestock, rocky landscapes and barnyard buildings of gray stone vividly depict the isolated islander's world. An exceptional page design sets words and pictures on blue-gray ground, then frames both with slim red lines; these subtle elements suggest the formality of a traditional tale. The trow-wife's treasure becomes not just Bracken's, but the readers'. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/30/1998
Release date: 04/01/1998
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