cover image The Nightingale

The Nightingale

Dom DeLuise. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $15 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81749-6

Basing his latest effort on the Hans Christian Andersen tale, DeLuise manages to despoil the original work of its mystery and turn it into a platform for ham-handed moralizing (the lessons: the best things in life are free, and feeling happy inside is what really counts). The author spends virtually the first third of the book spinning out an elaborate premise of how a king and his kingdom go from rags to riches; while this provides plenty of fodder for Santoro's exuberant comic talents, there's no reason why this story couldn't have started with everyone already rich. As overstuffed as the book feels, however, it's also missing something--namely, the funny, smart-alecky narrative winks and asides that have given other DeLuise and Santoro collaborations (notably King Bob's New Clothes) a junior version of sophistication. But Santoro's exaggerated characterizations are replete with honkable noses and eyes that might roll as easily as marbles, and few artists can orchestrate the kind of visual wit that brims in his depictions of excess. Two recipes cap the book, and the endpapers offer music, by Shelley Tenzer, for the nightingale's song. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)