cover image Cockatoucan


Edith Nesbit, E. Nesbit. Dial Books, $10.95 (30pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-0474-9

The look of these books is decidedly old-fashioned, from the paste-on illustration on the cloth cover to the style of the illustrations. The stories are as imaginative and witty as any reader would expect of E. Nesbit, but the artists have really just decorated her work, neither complementing it nor underlining the sensibility of the text. The art seems to be aimed at readers of Nesbit's day, but the books do not work as period pieces. Gray's illustrations are stiffat times, even static. The Ice Dragon, which concerns two children in search of the aurora borealis, becomes a literal-minded morality tale in her hands. A similar formality accompanies The Cockatoucan, about a strange bird with a laugh that transforms a kingdom; Hughes's people are awkwardly posed and actually dull the work. Ages 6-up. (April)