cover image Wild Swans

Wild Swans

Hans Christian Andersen, Deborah Hautzig. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $12 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-83446-5

A wicked stepmother has cast the beautiful princess Elisa out of the palace and turned Elisa's 11 brothers into swans. So begins this lengthy, sentimental retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's well-loved tale. In elaborate particulars Hautzig covers the evil queen's depredations and the loving princess's valiant quest to restore her brothers to human form. But because she delivers her account so thoroughly, taking the reader from Elisa's solitary journey to her meeting with the swans to her learning the secret of the stepmother's spell, from her imprisonment on charges of witchcraft to the eventual happy ending, her narration is a bit sluggish even by fairy-tale standards. Elisa's vows to learn patience and insistent goodness, meanwhile, strike a falsely inspirational note in the otherwise moving story. Kaila, with whom Hautzig collaborated on an edition of Thumbelina , favors delicate watercolors in misty hues of green and rose, with the deliberately flat look of early Renaissance religious art. But because they render Elisa's world in such quiet miniature, they bear little stylistic connection to the story. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)