cover image Happy Prince

Happy Prince

Oscar Wilde, Wilde/Young. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $14.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-671-67754-1

Young's haunting, shadow-filled illustrations of the familiar Wilde story are exquisite. A swallow, seeking shelter on his way to a warm climate, is surprised to find the statue of the Happy Prince weeping because of the poverty and injustice he sees in the city. The Happy Prince bids the sparrow pluck out first the ruby from his sword, then the sapphires from his eyes, and finally the thin leaves of fine gold with which he is gilded, and give them to the poor. But the sparrow stays too long, and when winter comes, his death causes the prince's leaden heart to break. When God asks his angel to choose ``the two most precious things in the city,'' and the angel brings ``him the leaden heart and the dead bird,'' the sacrifices each has made are redeemed. The conception, design, and sheer beauty of the pictures extend the meaning of the text, and, like the arched wings of the swallow, lend grace to a classic. Ages 6-8. (June)