cover image Victor and Christabel

Victor and Christabel

Petra Mathers. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $15 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-83060-3

In the latest romantic picture book from Mathers ( Sophie and Lou ), a shy museum guard becomes enamored of the young woman in a painting that's delivered one day. `` `No idea where this came from,' says the museum director,'' but Victor offers up wall space for it. He is mesmerized by the subject of the work, titled ``Cousin Christabel on Her Sickbed.'' He talks to Christabel, brings her flowers and even places a nightlight nearby ``to keep the goblins away.'' Readers are treated to the strange history of the painting while Victor pines for his seemingly unattainable love. Then, just as mysteriously as the painting appeared, Christabel comes to life. Mathers's intricate tale is wrought with plenty of intrigue and sentiment as she skillfully reiterates the theme that love can conquer all. Her rich gouache paintings--in earthy tones, occasionally splashed with bright yellow or dazzling red--embody a variety of moods, from sinister to sad, and are a perfect match for this emotional roller-coaster ride of a story. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)