CHESS-DREAM IN A GARDEN by Rosemary Sutcliff


by & illustrated by
Age Range: 5 & up
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At the behest of the illustrator of Gerald Durrell's books on animals, Sutcliff created this curious fable involving a real set of 12th-century Scandinavian chessmen (found on the Scottish Isle of Lewis) in a tale in which the Arthurian legend is summoned to serve an environmental message. In a beautiful garden (Eden/Camelot/Through the Looking-Glass?), the White King and Queen and their retinue each have an animal companion by day and another of which they dream--the Queen dreams of a unicorn, and sometimes that she is the unicorn, while her knight dreams of a zebra-striped horse, and of the Queen's unicorn, too. Even the pawns (carved simply as tombstones!) dream of being armadillos. The Knight woos the Queen, who refuses him; still, trouble has entered Paradise, now stormed by the Red Horde, and there's an allusion-filled battle on the chessboard, the beasts taking part. It's an intriguing intellectual exercise, but there are simply too many ideas here to find synthesis in such a brief story. Still, Sutcliff's admirers will be fascinated by the recapitulation of her themes; her prose is, as always, elegantly phrased; Thompson's lovely garden and expressive figures are limned with skillful, energetic strokes; and the story, though overintricate and confusing, is packed with action. A handsome book with so much going on that, paradoxically, it has something for everyone. (Picture book. 5+)
Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-56402-192-0
Page count: 48pp
Publisher: Candlewick
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1993


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