Called the most famous riddle mystery of all time, this very short story poses a dilemma. A man is sentenced to an unusual punishment for having a romance with a king's beloved daughter. Taken to the public arena, he is faced with two doors, behind one of which is a hungry tiger that will devour him. Behind the other is a beautiful lady-in-waiting, whom he will have to marry if he finds her. While the crowd waits anxiously for his decision, he sees the princess among the spectators, who points him to the door on the right with a slight movement of her hand. The lover starts to open the door and ... Did the princess save her lover's life by pointing to the door leading to the lady-in-waiting, or did she prefer to see her lover die rather than see him marry someone else?
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Charles Dickens (1812- 1870) was put to work in a factory at age twelve, and children coping with adult responsibilities figure in many of his works. His writing career was launched in 1833, and by the time the bestselling The Pickwick Papers was published in 1837, he was among the leading voices of
Robert Florczak's lifelong passion for Dickens's work, as well as for Victorian painting and design, culminates with The Magic Fish-bone's superb evocation of Dickens's time. Mr. Florczak lives in Southern California.
Grade 2-6-Dickens's marvelously descriptive turns of phrase and Florczak's pencil-and-oil illustrations bring to life this story of an endearing and rambunctious Victorian family. Things couldn't get much worse for seven-year-old Princess Alicia. As the eldest of 19 children, she copes as best as she can with her mother's illness, the cook's desertion, and accidental injuries to siblings. However, when her father reveals that the family faces utter penury, Alicia calls on the magical powers of a fish-bone from the Fairy Grandmarina. The resultant pile of golden coins assures them of a solvent future; a visit from the imperious but kindly Grandmarina cures all injuries and illness. And in true fairy-tale style, the patient, intrepid child is wed to a handsome young prince and promised a happy ever after. While animal lovers may cavil as the fish-bone effectively chokes a rather nasty pug dog, it's certainly consistent with this tale of "deserved comeuppances." The tongue-in-cheek wit and the lengthy text demand a degree of listener sophistication but the many oversized illustrations and the open typeface increase the tale's accessibility. The realistic tintype complexions and meticulous outlines of the characters play against detailed backgrounds that artfully blend the prosaic with the fantastic. Unusual and beautifully rendered in words and pictures, this is a fine addition to a unit on literary fairy tales, a droll introduction to Dickens, and an example of purely entertaining wish fulfillment.
Carol Ann Wilson, Westfield Memorial Library, NJ
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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