cover image The Jewel Heart

The Jewel Heart

Barbara Helen Berger, Berger. Philomel Books, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22681-6

Borrowing classical stage traditions for its themes and characterizations, this original tale speaks of unrequited love and romantic transformations. The voiceless Gemino, a Pagliacci-style clown, has only a jewel for a heart. He plays his violin for his beloved ballerina, Pavelle, whose appreciation for him seems to end with his haunting music. But when Gemino lies listless in a heap after a tragic fall, Pavelle is desperate to ``fix'' him. Aided by the animal shadows, she stitches new clothes (with a spider's web for thread and a thistle's spine for a needle) and patches him together. But Gemino needs a new heart. The shadow spirits offer a ``brown seed... dull and plain.'' Pavelle plants it in Gemino's chest, her tears watering it. When Gemino wakes and plays a new song, a living bud replaces his jewel heart. It is, however, Pavelle who has changed most. The style and soft palette of Berger's (Grandfather Twilight) acrylic paintings exude the familiar prettiness of a fairy tale, but her dramatic storytelling and gossamer imagery elevate the work to the elegance of opera or ballet. A substantial story that will blossom with repeat readings. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)