cover image Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle

Will Moses. Philomel Books, $18.99 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23152-0

All the elements of Washington Irving's 1820 tale come into play in this retelling, but it's Moses's (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) Hudson River backdrop that lends elegance to the volume. From the opening scene of great schooners winding their way downriver through the Catskill Mountains, the illustrations situate readers in an enchanted land. Moses lays the groundwork for lazy, good-natured Rip's transformation by portraying the protagonist propped up against a tree, whether in his own yard or just outside the town tavern where he gathers with his friends. Scorned by his wife one too many times, Rip heads for a hilltop with a vista of birches, pines and peak autumn colors. Moses successfully evokes the feeling of time stopped with his portrait of the mysterious band of revelers who lead Rip astray: the Dutchmen garbed in nearly clownish costume, a lone wisp of smoke escaping above the russet mountaintops, the ground in pale, neutral colors. The paintings aptly capture the momentous changes that occur during Rip's 20-year sleep (1769-1789): trees are larger, the tavern sign that once depicted King George III now displays General Washington, and new homes dot an otherwise familiar landscape. Small vignettes serve as close-ups to reveal the personalities of the various characters, though an illustration depicting Rip ""surrounded by a troop of children, hanging on his coattails, clambering up his back"" would have played up Rip's more positive attributes. Moses's tangible representation of Irving's setting and characters serves as a faithful introduction to the tale. Ages 4-up. (Sept.)