The Little Mermaid

Hans Christian Andersen, Author, Rachel Isadora, Illustrator, Rachel Isadora, Author Putnam Publishing Group $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-399-22813-1
Isadora's (Isadora Dances) haunting retelling of this classic tale leaves Disney's cotton-candy version far behind. Hewing faithfully to the darker themes of Andersen's original, Isadora relates the bittersweet story of the little mermaid who falls in love with a human prince and finds her love unrequited. Doomed by the sea witch's nefarious contract to become sea foam, the mermaid rejects the villainess's offer to save herself by murdering the prince, and instead martyrs herself for love. It's a fey, powerfully moving tale, exquisitely illustrated. While the text spools out against squares of sea-washed greens and grays, Isadora's ethereal watercolor portraits register a wide range of emotions, from the sweet innocence of the mermaid's yearning captured in a face tilted toward the water's surface, to the eerie image of her five sisters floating on a moonlit sea, offering up a knife to slay the prince. Isadora displays a dramatist's sense of lighting, endowing many scenes with the visual presence of a stage play. The sea-witch, for instance, is doubly frightening by virtue of her face being illuminated as if by footlights, casting cruel shadows and highlights across her leering visage. Isadora's superb artistic efforts outshine the somewhat pedestrian retelling, however, which lacks the emotional resonance of the illustrations. Ages 4-8. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/04/1998
Release date: 05/01/1998
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