cover image The Emperor and the Nightingale

The Emperor and the Nightingale

Hans Christian Andersen, Meilo So. Bradbury Press, $13.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-02-786045-0

Much of the elegance and subtlety of Andersen's classic tale have been squeezed out of this greatly abridged retelling. Retaining only the skeleton of the original plot, the story stumbles over choppy, prosaic phrasing: ``One day a new toy arrived for the Emperor. It was a mechanical nightingale. It sang the same songs as the real bird--very beautifully--and it was prettier, too.'' In contrast to the lackluster text, So demonstrates a fondness for exuberant color, filling the pages to overflowing with vibrant, cluttered paintings. However, the busily patterned backgrounds, unusual perspectives and outsize proportions lend an air of humor to the tale, far different from the tender message of simple beauty which traditional versions espouse. In addition, while the kaleidoscopic illustrations are visually engaging, youngsters may have difficulty discerning just what's going on in some spreads amid the jumble of images. The obviously gifted artist's work is ill-matched to this timeless tale. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)