In the later years of his life, the Scottish-born Stevenson and his American wife moved to Samoa, where this tale was originally published, in Samoan, in 1891. Offering an engrossing spin on a time-honored theme-the risky business of making a pact with the devil-this short story is a radiant jewel. It recounts the mercurial lot of Keawe, a Hawaiian who purchases a bottle inhabited by an imp capable of granting any wish. Yet this enticing object holds a dark curse: anyone who dies with it in his possession will burn forever in hell. And here's the sticky rub: one can only sell the bottle for less than its purchase price. Keawe rids himself of the bottle after acquiring a palatial home. But when he needs it again to ensure his happiness with a newfound love, its cost is, chillingly, one cent, and the responsibility of ownership becomes a good deal more complex. Stevenson throws unexpected curves and laces his narrative with memorable imagery and canny understatement. Blending period and contemporary elements, Mair's warm, grainy paintings hold more than a hint of Gauguin's renderings of the tropics' lush vegetation and gleaming blue seas and skies. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/29/1996 Release date: 02/01/1996 Genre: Children's
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