Of all of Andersen's fairy tales, The Snow Queen ranks among his most compelling. It's a long, complicated story about a boy and girl, Kai and Gerda, separated by a terrible spell. A bewitched fragment of glass has been lodged in Kai's eye, transforming everything he sees that's good and beautiful into something ugly, and everything ugly and evil into something beautiful. The heartless Snow Queen transports Kai to her castle, and Gerda sets out to bring him back. But what made the original story a great one was not the arrival but the journey, and Gerda's is a long and perilous one. And the story's underlying theme concerned nothing less than the struggle between good and evil. But Hess' retelling of the story falls fiat. He has no ear for the rhythm of a sentence, no instinct for creating suspense. The mysterious, haunting quality of the original Andersen story is missing; a wooden and cumbersome travel itinerary is all that remains. What the language lacks, the images Hess has created frequently provide. The book is full of richly textured, dramatic paintings that children will loveto pore over. But even the impact of the illustrations is somewhat diminished by a cluttered design; almost every two-page spread includes not only text and a full-size illustration, but also an art nouveau border, an italicized summary of events, and a smaller, marginal painting, too. Hess has proven here his ability to render illustrations worthy of this marvelous story. Too bad he didn't leave the retelling to someone else.