cover image The Three Golden Keys

The Three Golden Keys

Peter Sis. Doubleday Books, $22.5 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-385-47292-0

With his stunning artwork and resonant, enigmatic prose, Sis (Komodo; Follow the Dream) fashions an entrancing, mystical allegory about the complicated history of his native Prague. After a ``wild and turbulent storm'' blows him ``far off course,'' a balloonist find himself ``floating toward the spires of a big city.'' Realizing he has returned to Prague, the city of his childhood, the narrator locates his family's home. But three rusty padlocks encrust the door. Guided by a black cat (``Can it really be my cat after all these years?''), the man searches for the three keys. Each is contained in a Czech legend he learned as a child; all three stories are incorporated here on self-contained spreads. A single wash of color enhances the detailed, pen-and-ink illustrations, and each picture is framed in gold against parchment-like paper. Ghostly faces and figures emanate from buildings, plants and other everyday objects, echoing the ethereal quality of the tale, and suggesting the continued existence of what the author terms ``hobgoblins.'' Sis dedicates the story to his American-born daughter in a heartfelt letter that encapsulates the depth of his feelings about the importance of a sense of place and a sense of home. A treasure. All ages. (Nov.)