cover image Through the Mickle Woods

Through the Mickle Woods

Valiska Gregory. Little Brown and Company, $15.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-316-32779-4

The Queen is dead, and the King has been plunged into grief as bleak as the winter weather that swirls outside the palace. Michael, a young orphan, brings a letter, the Queen's last request: Into the dark and mickle woods go forth to find the bear. At the eave of the wise old bruin, the King comes to realize-through cryptic stories and Michael's love-that he must speak of his grief and remember his wife to allow the healing process to begin. Written in eloquent prose shot through with fresh metaphors, this modern folktale deals compassionately with the death of a loved one. A difficult subject for a children's book, yet Gregory succeeds for the most part, filling her text with light, hope and the cycles of nature to lighten the tone. However, the talewithin-a-tale structure may be a bit sophisticated for the intended audience. Also, Moser's artwork does not take full advantage of the story's dramatic opportunities. With impeccable technique, the illustrations reflect the King's gloominess in dark, still scenes, yet some appear a bit lifeless and foreed instead of flowing naturally from this pungent tale. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)