cover image Alberic the Wise

Alberic the Wise

Norton Juster, Nilofer Merchant. Picture Book Studio Ltd, $16.95 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-88708-243-6

The author of The Phantom Tollbooth spins a classically structured yarn about a simple, wisdom-seeking country youth of no particular talents. The boy is so taken by a stranger's exotic descriptions of the great world beyond that he embarks on a journey of his own. He apprentices first with one tradesman, then another, excelling at nothing. Yet his search for knowledge continues. After many years, when he enraptures others with stories of his own experiences, he is given the name Alberic the Wise. Juster's elegant command of language is immediately evident--``More than many years ago when fewer things had happened in the world and there was less to know, there lived a young man named Alberic who knew nothing at all.'' Though the story is overlong for a picture book market, the author's compelling prose, elevated without being lofty, will draw in advanced readers. Rendered in rich, earthy tones, Baskin's bold, expressionist watercolors function primarily as vigorous character studies, though they do little to advance the story. Ultimately, this multi-faceted and sophisticated tale about art, wisdom and life itself may find its most appreciative audience with adults. Ages 6-up. (Nov.)