cover image King of Magic, Man of Glass: A German Folk Tale

King of Magic, Man of Glass: A German Folk Tale

Dirk Zimmer, Judith Kinter. Clarion Books, $16 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-395-79730-3

This relatively unfamiliar folk tale teaches a familiar lesson: the truest happiness is to be had in one's own home, however humble. Rudolf despises his simple life with his widowed mother; food on the table and a job peddling coal are not enough to satisfy his wants. When Rudolf learns he has a special godfather, the Glass Man, who can perform magic, he sets off to shake down the mysterious creature for all he can get. But, for each treasure the Glass Man grudgingly supplies for Rudolf, Rudolf wants more, until he learns that no amount of wealth can buy contentment. Readers may liken Kinter's well-paced tale to the oft-heard ""Fisherman and His Wife,"" though some of the plot details here may confuse them. Rudolf, for example, is initially told that only a man with a heart ""as pure as glass"" can receive help from the Glass Man; by book's end, Rudolf suffers because his heart has become ""hard as glass."" Zimmer's (The Great Turtle Drive) intricately cross-hatched ink-and-watercolor compositions transport readers to an old world village and lush woodland. Adding panache, he occasionally borders his work with rich green batik-like frames. But for all its strengths, Zimmer's style is not well suited to the story: the polished use of line and texture is at cross-purposes with a depiction of a man made of ""sparkling, clear glass."" The pictures of the Glass Man, unfortunately, diminish the character's magic. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)