cover image Iron Hans

Iron Hans

, , illus. by Matt Tavares. . Candlewick, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2160-5

Spreads of brawny figures and armored knights endow this retelling of a Grimm Brothers' tale with epic dimensions. The story concerns a prince who helps a king win a decisive victory with the magical assistance of Iron Hans, a shock-headed giant. Mitchell (The Nightingale ) spins the German original into a tale of inner awakening, conferringon his young prince the insight of a spiritual seeker; the boy recognizes that his adventures are a trial before they even start. “He knew also that part of this new test was learning how to be poor and powerless. He would have to keep his identity hidden and let no one guess that he was a prince.” Mitchell's ascetic reading sits a little oddly next to Tavares's ('Twas the Night Before Christmas ) strapping figures, as Tavares seems to locate the source of the story's charm in outer strength, not inner search. Clamoring knights, galloping steeds and scenes of palace splendor crowd the pages, which rise in a vertical format as if to stress Iron Hans's nine-foot stature. Iron Hans's mane sticks out like a wire brush, and the prince's hair, turned golden in Iron Hans's magic spring, shines like light. Complex and muscular, this is a good bet for readers who demand lots of action. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)