cover image Suleiman the Elephant: A Picture Book

Suleiman the Elephant: A Picture Book

Margret Rettich. William Morrow & Company, $12.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-05741-1

In 1551, a royal wedding took place in Spain between Max, the son of King Ferdinand the First of Austria, to Maria, the daughter of Emperor Charles the Fifth. Max was a little preoccupied during the ceremony. He couldn't take his eyes of one of the wedding presentsan elephant. He named the beast Suleiman, after the Turkish sultan who was trying to overthrow the city of Vienna. Max and Maria tried to return to Vienna, when their ships were attacked by pirates. The sudden appearance of the elephant frightened the attackers away. From Genoa, Max and Maria journeyed by land, and everywhere the newlyweds went they were greeted by crowds and celebrations. When at last they reached Vienna, they learned that the Viennese themselves had fought off the Turks. Emperor Maximilian the Second and his wife Maria went on to have 16 children. All of this is based on an historical incident, and there are inns along the path they took that are named for Suleiman. Even if it weren't true, Rettich's humorous telling is engaging, as are her festive watercolors, in rich russets, wine reds and medieval tones of gray. (5-8)