cover image The Whittler's Tale

The Whittler's Tale

Jennifer Armstrong. Tambourine Books, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10751-2

The power of belief fuels this tale of a stranger whose carvings come to life as he tells stories about them to the assembled townsfolk. The suspicious and greedy mayor demands that the whittler hand over the magic knife despite the stranger's warning that it will do the mayor no good. When the mayor cuts nothing but his fingers, he tosses the instrument into the fire, ruining it. Clementine, herself learning to use a pocket knife, returns the blackened knife to the stranger, apologizing for the damage. The grateful man explains that ``the magic isn't in the knife'' and asks her to ``try it yourself and see.'' Armstrong's (Hugh Can Do; That Terrible Baby) narrative has the pleasing rhythms and cyclical nature of traditional fairytales. Featuring a Netherlandish setting, Vasiliev's (Dreamsong) gold- and green-toned paintings make use of skewed perspectives. His elongated characters stand on sloping ground, like actors on an old-fashioned stage, for a pleasing balance of antique and contemporary aesthetics. Ages 5-up. (Oct.)