Marc Sutherland, Author . Abrams $16.95 (28p) ISBN 978-0-8109-4494-7

In a concluding note, Sutherland (The Waiting Place) explains that Norse mythology and Celtic folklore inspired both the text and pictures of this allegorical tale. More memorable and complex than the narrative is the art, created by a multi-step process using pastel pencil, acrylic paints, oil paints and oil washes. The larger-than-life, boastful MacMurtrey sets out to prove that he is greatest of all, caging every beast and fencing in the hills to claim them as his own. Still unhappy, he then decides to build a wall to "cage the sea," a painstaking process that strips the hillside bare; all but MacMurtrey sail away from "this sad land." Predictably, even capturing the sea brings the tyrant no satisfaction; nature steps in to set things to rights. The formerly foreboding illustrations then become a good deal sunnier, as smiles replace the villagers' tears, and the once doleful faces that composed the waves in the sea become cheerful. Sutherland's arresting compositions incorporate a range of expressions, patterns and details; for instance, when at last he completes the wall and proclaims, "There are none so great, so great as me!" a giant deified face is visible in the clouds, transforming into the storm itself in subsequent spreads. Some potentially frightening images in these symbolic, somewhat surreal paintings, make this most appropriate for more sophisticated picture-book readers. A feast for the eyes. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/15/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Children's
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