cover image The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid

Hans Christian Andersen. Henry Holt & Company, $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1010-7

No matter how often it's retold, no matter how many illustrators tackle it, Andersen's classic tale of the lovelorn mermaid never grows stale. Unlike the sanitized Disney version, the original isn't particularly cheerful: the mermaid loses not only her voice, but also her prince and her life (although she's given a reprieve in the form of a chance to earn an immortal soul). It is, however, exquisitely written--richly layered, evocative, and full of hope, pain and yearning. Hague's Rackham-esque style suits the intense emotions of the prose; his slightly muted palette seems an extension of Andersen's imagination, capturing as it does the filtered half-light of the mysterious undersea world thronged with exquisitely sinuous merfolk. At once lavishly detailed and fanciful, his illustrations distill the haunting beauty of the century-old story, a story as fresh today as the day it was penned. All ages. (Apr.)