Books by Isabelle Brent

THE CHRISTMAS HORSE AND THE THREE WISE MEN by Isabelle Brent
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 7, 2016

"An uneven effort that reflects a lack of understanding of the intended audience. (Picture book/religion. 5-8)"
The journey of the three Magi on their travels to the birthplace of Jesus is recounted from the point of view of a horse. Read full book review >
SAINT ANTHONY THE GREAT by John Chryssavgis
CHILDREN'S
Released: Dec. 7, 2015

"While not destined to have wide appeal, the book tells the story of a saint deeply important in both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox traditions, filling a critical niche. (appendix, timeline, further reading, map, glossary) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)"
A brief introduction to the early Christian mystic and saint. Read full book review >
IN THE HOUSE OF HAPPINESS by Neil Philip
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 24, 2003

Philip and Brent (Noah and the Devil, 2001, etc.) collaborate again to offer a lovely collection of prayers. Brent's exquisite hand illustrates this beautiful, small volume in the manner of medieval manuscripts. Finding its audience might be problematic, however. Philip, an indefatigable editor of anthologies for young people, has gathered selections from many religions and cultures, and divided them loosely into seven sections, each with its own border design. On facing pages, for example, are prayers from the Talmud, English and Breton traditions, and 19th-century Irish. They are all very short, and sometimes abbreviated, as in the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, where only the first half appears. Some, for English speakers, are deeply familiar: "Thank you for the world so sweet, / Thank you for the food we eat"; or Dickens's "God bless us every one!" Others seem scarcely to be prayers, like "Star light, star bright . . . I wish I may, I wish I might, / Have the wish I wish tonight." Still others, not so well-known, come from Hindu and Muslim traditions, from Africa, from Hawaii, from various Native American peoples. Gorgeous illuminations border each page with tendrils of flora, birds, fruit, flowers, and lavish use of gold. A lovely gift (Nonfiction. 7-11)Read full book review >
NOAH AND THE DEVIL by Neil Philip
CHILDREN'S
Released: Aug. 17, 2001

Illustrated with Brent's (Celtic Fairytales, not reviewed, etc.) glorious, gold-drenched watercolors, Philip weaves a number of Romanian pourquoi tales into the biblical story of Noah and the ark. Gathering the animals two by two, Noah sees his wife hesitating. Indeed, she won't come on board until the water is up to her waist and Noah says angrily, "Oh, you devil, come in!" At that, the devil comes on to the ark in the form of a mouse. The mouse chews through a plank and water begins to leak into the ark, but Noah throws a fur glove at it, which turns into a cat that catches the mouse, and Noah throws them both overboard. The devil-as-mouse escapes and the cat comes back on board to dry itself in the warmest, sunniest spot, a habit that continues to this day. The origin of the flea is also neatly explained. Brent's resplendent ark is in the shape of a red and gold dove. It carries a storied house on its back with arched doors and windows and a patterned tile roof. The pages, bordered in jewel-toned folk-art patterns, hold pictures of voluptuous beauty, from naturalistic animal portraits to a sea resembling silk ribbon shot with luminous fish. Indeed, it is the shimmering art that transforms what is a somewhat less successful text into a worthy addition to the folklore shelves. (author's source note) (Folktale/picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
FAIRY TALES OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM by Neil Philip
CHILDREN'S
Released: Nov. 1, 1997

A lovely edition of tales that hearkens back to the stories' roots in oral telling and wordplay. Philip (In a Sacred Manner I Live, p. 1034, etc.) writes an introduction to these tales, describing in simple terms how the Grimms collected their material and worked it for publication, mentioning their lives as scholars of the German language. Making their customary appearances in the 20 stories are Rapunzel, Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and the Musicians of Bremen as well as lesser known characters, among them the Gold Children and Mother Snow. The selections have the rough edges of traditional folktales. Philip's attempts to capture the cadence of oral telling ranges from the colorful—``common or garden bright won't do. I want a real clever-clogs'' and ``he might as well have saved his breath to cool his porridge''—to the contemporary (and jarring) ``fine by me.'' Brent's illustrations, which consist of full-page, full- color images as well as pretty little vignettes to close most of the stories, are framed in patterns inspired by gothic architecture and illumination; every page has a delicate blue-and-gold edge. For collections that need yet one more Grimm, this is a good choice to hand to middle graders who are starting to think they are too old for fairy tales. (Folklore. 9-12) Read full book review >
FAIRY TALES OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN by Hans Christian Andersen
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

Some of Andersen's best-loved tales, perceptively introduced by Philip (The Snow Queen, 1989), who treats them as high literature, never forcing them into ready-made formulas. Grandly ornamental art-deco borders in gold and azure give the book a distinctively handsome appearance and frame illustrations obviously inspired by, and sometimes simply copied from, Gustav Klimt. The pictures tend to the mediocre: banal-looking animals, stiff people, and sketchy landscapes. The few that succeed—of swans rising above the water, or of an icy Snow Queen—have gorgeous ornamental backgrounds. For Philip's phrasing and presentation, this is a worthy volume; young listeners won't mind the pictures, and older readers will be too engrossed in the stories themselves to notice. (Fiction. 5+) Read full book review >
THE FAIRY TALES OF OSCAR WILDE by Oscar Wilde
FAIRY TALES, FOLKTALES AND MYTHS
Released: Oct. 1, 1994

After over 100 years, Wilde's fairy tales have lost none of their tragic beauty, or their sly humor, to which these nine bear witness. They are about friendship and sacrifice, true love and religious belief. The story of ``The Happy Prince'' who, with the help of his devoted friend, the Swallow, aids the poor and unhappy people he sees from his privileged position high above the city, combines all these elements into Wilde's most poignant tale; in the end Wilde invokes God himself to lift up the souls of the departed friends. In ``The Nightingale and the Rose,'' although the Nightingale gives her life's blood to create a rose with which the Student may win his ladylove, Wilde ends the story cynically. The longer and more esoteric ``The Fisherman and his Soul'' deals in greater depth, and more obscurely, with questions of morality, religion, and love. But though these are sad and thoughtful tales, Wilde's signature wit is clearly evident—as when the mother duck says to her children during their lessons, ``You will never be in the best society unless you can stand on your heads.'' Classic tales wonderfully adorned with Brent's lustrous, jewel-toned illumination. (Stories/Fiction. All ages) Read full book review >
NOAH'S ARK by Isabelle Brent
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 1992

The title page of this beautifully illustrated edition of the story of Noah (as it appears in the Revised English Bible) states that Brent has ``illuminated'' the text, a fair description of her meticulous, ornamental work. Using elaborate patterns and borders, decorative motifs based on fabrics, tiles, or plants, stylized humans, and fairly realistic beasts, she assembles decorative full-page illustrations and delicate vignettes to adorn the facing pages of text, all gilded in the medieval tradition. The result may hold more charm for adults than for children, who like a bit more action in their pictorial narration. Still, the sheer beauty of these illuminations is sure to draw readers of all ages. (Nonfiction. 3+) Read full book review >