cover image The Fairy Tale of the World

The Fairy Tale of the World

Jürg Amann, illus. by Käthi Bhend, North-South, $19.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7358-2316-7

Bhend's intricately beautiful illustrations cannot lift this story out of its unrelenting despair. Based on an episode in the 19th-century German writer Georg Büchner's play Woyzeck, it describes the journey of a child who finds the earth deserted and the beauty of the heavens a delusion. As Amann describes the boy's circumstances, they are almost comically bleak—"Everyone had died; no one was left in the world"—and his exploration of the moon and sun fruitless. "[W]hen he got there, he found that the moon was only a piece of rotten wood... whose rottenness glowed green in the dark night." But in contrast, Bhend's (In My Dreams I Can Fly) moon is an entrancing sphere of braided blue branches that floats alone in a black void; the boy climbs through the tangle toward a bird concealed at its heart. It's a remarkable vision, and her other spreads are no less inventive and are equally at odds with the hopelessness of the text. The publisher's age range should be heeded; this is not a book for young children. Ages 12–up. (Nov.)