cover image The King of the Golden River

The King of the Golden River

John Ruskin, illus. by Quentin Blake. Thames & Hudson, $19.95 (64p) ISBN 978-0-500-65185-8

Blake’s signature kinetic line and quivering washes of bold color illustrate an 1842 folktale by the influential art critic John Ruskin. Three brothers—two awful, one sweet—live in an Edenic valley that the two oldest exploit for profit. When the South-West Wind, Esquire (an irascible little gentleman with a “mustache curled twice round like a corkscrew”) comes calling on a stormy night and kind Gluck, the youngest brother, offers him food and shelter, the act triggers a chain of events that involve environmental catastrophe, a tiny king trapped within a golden cup, and a voyage across a treacherous glacier to find a fortune. That the fortune turns out to be the valley restored, not a literal pile of gold, adds resonance for readers living in the Anthropocene. Ruskin’s rich language—“level lines of dewy mist... out of which rose the massy mountains”—is a treat. Ages 7–up. [em](Apr.) [/em]