cover image THE SUGAR CHILD


Monique de Varennes, , illus. by Leonid Gore. . Atheneum/Schwartz, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-85244-2

This old-fashioned story brims with familiar fairytale images. In an idyllic snowy village, a sweet couple longs to have a child, a sick boy languishes away and a girl made of marzipan, thanks to a baker's love, turns into a real child. De Varennes's story is economically told. Jacques the Baker fashions a beautiful child out of marzipan for his wife at Christmas and, in the morning, the child magically wakes up as if she were alive. The thrilled parents name her Matine ("the French word for morning, for that was when she had come into their lives"). Gore's (Sleeping Boy ) lovely autumn-toned acrylic and pastel illustrations feature an ebony-haired child in a red dress who appears to glisten with sugar. Matine is so fragile that her parents fear her tears will melt her away, so they lie to her about her friend Jean-Paul's illness. The artist fills the illustrations with storybook peasant faces; even the snow is tinged with a sad, yellowed glow. When Matine finds Jean-Paul on his deathbed, her tears miraculously heal her friend, and she discovers that beneath "the brittle layer of her marzipan skin was not more sugar, but the warm flesh of a real child." This tale may appeal to youngsters who like happy endings, but may be too sweet for some. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)