cover image The Acrobat and the Angel

The Acrobat and the Angel

Mark Shannon. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22918-3

The brothers Shannon (Gawain and the Green Knight) return with an adept and poignant interpretation of the medieval French folktale ""The Acrobat of God (or of Our Lady)."" Orphaned P quel possesses only one memento of his mother: an angel she fashioned from twigs and dried flowers. On the verge of starvation, P quel , a gifted acrobat, is taken in by the friars at a monastery on the condition that he ""leave [his] carnival ways behind forever."" The boy agrees and takes comfort in the friendship of a kind friar and the abbey's angel statue, which reminds him of his mother's parting gift. But one day, P quel breaks his promise in order to cheer a small child stricken with the plague. The abbot banishes P quel for his disobedience. The boy begs to see the angel statue one last time--with dramatic results. A sense of wonder permeates Mark Shannon's polished and understated retelling, making the tale's miraculous elements seem credible and nearly logical. In a return to his traditional style, dramatically different from his David Goes to School (reviewed above), David Shannon here presents luminous acrylics framed by stone-window-like arches, some modest and some ornate, resembling the look of medieval masonry. The artist's brilliant characterization of P quel reveals a boy at once humble and larger than life. These heroic traits culminate in the volume's only full-bleed spread, a spectacular portrait of P quel launching into flight with his angel. A moving story that leaves a lingering impression of joy. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)