cover image William Tell

William Tell

Leonard Everett Fisher. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-38436-4

Elegant full-page oil paintings, in the style of Fisher's Kinderdike, provide a dramatic backdrop for a retelling of the famous but underexplored legend about a 14th-century Swiss marksman. When Herr Gessler, the cruel governor of Altdorf, decrees that residents must kneel before his hat, elevated on a pole in the town square, William Tell refuses to meet the tyrant's demands, calling them ""mean and stupid."" As punishment for his disobedience, Herr Gessler issues Tell the well-known ultimatum about shooting an arrow through an apple perched on his son's head. Fisher builds the essential tension as Tell accepts the challenge and prepares to release the fateful arrow. The son, of course, is spared; the governor, however, is not, and he is killed by Tell's arrow before the story ends. Working in a stylized palette that allows for orange or lavender skies and slightly mottled figures, Fisher paints almost cinematic compositions, as if freeze-framing the action. One caveat: presiding adults may wish Fisher had included source notes or other information about the legend. Ages 5-8. (Mar.)