cover image The Changeling

The Changeling

Selma Ottilia Lagerloef. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-81035-3

Nobel Prize-winning author Lagerlof serves up a robust version of this age-old folktale indigenous to many cultures. Here, in good Scandinavian tradition, it's a troll and not an elf nor a fairy who swipes the human baby and replaces it with her own. Thanks to Stevens's fluid translation, the lengthy tale never lags, and, like most folktales, it packs a tidy moral: goodness is always rewarded. The grieving farmer's wife risks alienation from her husband and neighbors by caring for the changeling, but her kindness is repaid when the troll spares the life of her own child and finally returns him. Winter's ( Diego ) stylized, lushly bordered illustrations make excellent use of spirited peasant motifs, updated with rich, plummy hues. And her endearingly hideous troll baby is truly a child only a mother could love. Ages 5-10. (Mar.)