cover image Dove Isabeau

Dove Isabeau

Jane Yolen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-224131-5

Yolen's new fable, redolent with myths ageless and archetypal, strikes at the heart. Dove Isabeau, so-called because she always wears dove's colors of gray or white, is bereft at her mother's death. Her father, Lord Darnton, marries a witch--with ``eyes the green of May but a heart as bleak as February.'' Jealous of Isabeau's youth and beauty, the witch resolves to destroy her and turns her into a great Wyrm, an ugly, scaly red dragon. The dragon is condemned to preventing Isabeau's suitors from entering the castle (by eating them), until ``No one was left to watch the red beast weep as it gnawed upon their bones.'' Only when the king sends abroad for his son, Kemp Owain, to return from his study of sorcery is Isabeau saved, and not without a bit of help from her mother's cat, who issues instructions in the sweet voice of the dead queen. Word and picture are wedded here in perfect harmony. Nolan's somber, lucid watercolors, full of detail, show the interior of the castle, the witch's tower room, the transformation of gentle Isabeau into the fearsome, ugly dragon. Less effective, and only because the others are so strong, are those showing the young couple in happier times. Ages 8-12. (Oct.)