One of the great illustrators of our time takes on one of the knottier Andersen fairy tales, producing a gorgeous and winning result.
MacDonald’s retelling hews closely to Andersen’s original in all its complexity but without its Christian allusions. It begins with a prologue: A wicked troll creates a mirror in which everything good looks hideous, and everything evil looks entrancing. The mirror breaks into millions of tiny pieces and pollutes the world. In winter, when Gerda’s grandmother tells the story of the Snow Queen to Gerda and her friend Kai, the window flies open, and Kai is pierced by a tiny shard of the troll mirror. He insults Gerda, dashes outside and is whisked away on his sled by the Snow Queen herself. Gerda does not believe he is dead and searches through many adventures and adversities to find and rescue him. Ibatoulline’s paintings are a wonder of form and color. On one spread, the icy queen wraps Kai completely in her blue and gray fur blanket; on the next, Gerda takes a boat on a sunlit river in a golden spring to find him. There are princesses and robbers, mysterious crows and talking reindeer. Ibatoulline renders the northern lights more exquisitely than any photograph.
A deep subtext of love and loss, childhood and awakening, power and trust resonate through these pages at least as strongly as the magnificent images. (Picture book/fairy tale. 7-12)