cover image The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant

Oscar Wilde, Fiona Waters. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-375-80319-2

An inventive manipulation of perspective and subtle shifts in palette mark Negrin's (Dora's Box) haunting paintings for this smooth retelling of Wilde's Christian allegory. Otherworldly in its angularity, the art intensifies the mystical quality of the narrative. The eponymous giant builds a high wall to keep children from playing in his lush garden. A dark, seemingly endless winter settles in, until the children return through a small hole in the wall, bringing spring with them as they climb into the trees. Yet winter still reigns in one far corner of the garden; there the giant spies a small boy who can't reach the lowest branches of a tree. Contrite, the giant lifts the tiny child into the tree, which then ""burst[s] into blossom."" The giant destroys the wall and welcomes the children back into his garden, but this one boy does not return. At tale's end, many years later, the child reappears (with ""two wounds on the palms of his hands and two in his little feet. They were the prints of nails"") to repay the now elderly giant's kindness: ""A long time ago you let me play in your garden. Now I have come to take you to my garden, which is called Paradise."" Despite its loud redemptive note, children will probably need adult guidance in interpreting this classic story; fortunately, the handsome production welcomes young readers and the tale itself warrants the effort. Ages 5-8. (Feb.)