cover image The Three Golden Oranges

The Three Golden Oranges

Alma Flor Ada. Atheneum Books, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80775-6

Ada adds feminist panache to her retelling of the classic Spanish folktale. Mat as and his two older brothers wish to wed, but there is not a single unmarried girl in all their lush valley. The old woman who lives on the cliff by the sea has the answer: if they travel to a distant castle, pick three golden oranges and bring them to her, each brother will have the wife he desires. But they must work together or, she cautions, ""Woe to you if you do not follow my advice."" Mat as, the only one to comply, wins his destined bride, the kind Blancaflor, and she helps him to save both his brothers and her bewitched sisters. Ada's author's note cites no specific source for her retelling, but does contrast her Blancaflor tale with some of the more popular versions. As in her original fairy tale, The Malachite Palace, she adopts a straightforward, sometimes bland narrative voice (""When Mat as... saw that there was only one orange left, he felt very sad for his brothers""). But the artwork will sustain readers' interest. Cartwright's (The Band Over the Hill) vivid and varied vignettes and spot illustrations rendered in flat, round shapes and bold colors evoke folk art while displaying a sense of life and movement. The pictures here are as succulent as the oranges themselves. Ages 5-8. (May)