The Goblin and the Empty Chair

Mem Fox, Author, Leo Dillon, Illustrator, Diane Dillon, Illustrator , illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon. S&S/Beach Lane $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-8585-3

A green, sharp-clawed goblin who has exiled himself from society reveals his warm heart when he stumbles upon a farmer whose grief has overcome his will to work. The goblin waits for night, then pitches in: “He dug where digging was needed. He chopped where chopping was needed.” Sturdy ink and watercolor drawings by the Caldecott Medalists recall pages in a medieval book of hours, a thin panel along the top showing a sequence of actions, while the main panel captures a single instant. The goblin cares tenderly for the farmer's wife and child, too, trying unsuccessfully to serve without being discovered. Gathered at their table, the family sits “staring at the chair that had been empty all winter,” then sets food there for the goblin, who watches fearfully from outside. Readers will understand that the family is bereaved, and that just as the goblin provided each family member with what they needed, they are doing the same for him. Acceptance and healing are less common picture book themes; Fox (Time for Bed ) handles them with particular grace. Ages 5–8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/07/2009
Release date: 09/01/2009
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