cover image The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor's New Clothes

Hans Christian Andersen. Candlewick Press (MA), $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-0119-5

Dogs--curious and well groomed, playful and preening--are the vain emperor's most important fashion accessory in this witty new edition of Andersen's tale. Barrett, who also illustrated Lewis's translation of The Snow Queen, shows her canine subjects delighting in the antics of their clothes-conscious master, who has ""a different coat for every hour of the day."" They peer at themselves in mirrors and sniff the royal shoes as their owner gazes happily into his voluminous closets. Lewis's text is lively, as when the emperor's subjects are asked if they like his robe: "" `Yes, indeed,' said all the courtiers. But since there was nothing there to see, nothing was all they saw."" Barrett's visuals play on the tension between what's seen and unseen. In one scene, only the emperor's feet peek out from beneath a full-length mirror as the phonies look on with feigned approval. The artist resets the tale in 1913, which, as Lewis's foreword explains, is ""the final prewar year of the little kingdoms that once made up Europe."" Her illustrations make clever use of picture frames, windows, and doors to compose charming tableaux. In the borders, the emperor's Gable-like image is replicated on paper dolls, stamps, postcards and coins. The emperor's pursuit of fashion becomes such frivolous fun that he is quite a likable fool--especially when his tan lines are showing. Ages 6-9. (Sept.)