cover image Feathertop


Robert D. San Souci. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42044-0

Portions of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story ``Feathertop: A Moralized Legend'' have been, of necessity, greatly altered for this picture book adaptation. Robert San Souci's retelling, however, preserves a surprising amount of drama--even in this truncated form, the plight of the scarecrow who loves a mortal girl retains its affecting overtones. Mother Rigby, ``one of the most powerful witches in early New England,'' transforms her ragtag scarecrow into a flesh-and-blood man and sets out to humiliate her antagonist, Judge Gookin, by having the manikin woo the judge's daughter. As might be expected--and hoped for--in a work for this age group, true love wins out, and even Mother Rigby seems a trifle calmer at book's end. Brisk pacing, a believable conflict and even a certain amount of depth are skillful substitutions for the original story's disturbing psychological issues. Daniel San Souci's handsome watercolors, in pinks, plums and browns, effectively capture the garb and architectural details of mid-18th-century New England; more than that, they imbue the story's small cast with the child appeal of a solid folktale. Though literary purists may object to this abridgement, youngsters will relish cheering for hero and heroine and booing a nasty witch indeed. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)