cover image Last Giants

Last Giants

Francois Place, Frannbrrcois Place. David R. Godine Publisher, $15.95 (80pp) ISBN 978-0-87923-990-9

Place's first book, a haunting fable set in the mid-1800s, begins as English explorer Archibald Leopold Ruthmore purchases what appears to be a giant's tooth, carved with intertwined markings that resemble a map. Recognizing the area as the legendary Land of the Giants, he sets out to find this lost world. In dramatic, occasionally difficult language (``The jungle blanketed us with fetid miasmas laden with the dank smell of humus and decay''), Ruthmore describes his arduous journey, during which all his fellow travelers are massacred by a tribe of headhunters. Alone, the intrepid voyager (still wearing his top hat) finally reaches his destination and discovers the eponymous giants, nine compassionate creatures covered with intricately patterned tattoos that tell stories. Ruthmore lives among them for 10 months and, upon returning to England, makes a mistake he regrets forever: he writes a book revealing the existence and whereabouts of his gentle friends, inadvertently sounding the death knell for their civilization. The moral is delivered with subtlety, and Place's delicate, painstakingly detailed period paintings play a significant role in conveying his profound message. Originally published in the author's native France, the book has there received three major prizes, including the 1992 Grand Prize for Children's Literature. All ages. (Sept.)