Relief-print illustrations in red and black give this retelling of Andersen’s unhappy love story between a one-legged tin soldier and a ballerina doll a particularly dark edge.
Yoon makes only minor changes to Andersen’s narrative, but her choices for color and imagery add naturalistic, even brutal notes. These are highlighted by the soldier’s encounters with a nightmarish jack-in-the-box “troll” and a huge, vicious sewer rat, followed by his later rediscovery amid the guts and gore of a fish being chopped up for the stew pot. Mirroring the soldier, the ballerina, frozen in midpirouette, is angled throughout so that only one leg is visible. Yoon’s figures are all flat, with fixed eyes and mottled surfaces. The deep black and vivid red color scheme casts a perfervid glare over jumbled settings and piles of antique toys (including, anachronistically, a retro-style robot) and looks particularly hellish in the depiction of the flames in which the lovers are climactically united…for an instant. Or maybe that’s supposed to be the consuming flames of love? This is not recommended for bedtime reading.
A disturbing but, considering the storyline, entirely justified interpretation. (Picture book. 7-9)