An orphaned princess must free her brothers from a magic spell in this striking adaptation of the classic Grimm fairy tale.
Princess Eliza and her 11 brothers live a sheltered life in the court of their widower father, the King of the North. When he remarries, his wife is not an evil witch but rather a healer who spends her time trying to dispel a deadly plague that threatens the kingdom. The spell transforming the princes into swans is not a curse; rather, it saves them from death while also enabling them to see the world and mature into insightful rulers. When their parents expire from the plague, Eliza must restore her brothers to human form. With its insightfully altered storyline and eye-popping illustrations, this latest, lush collaboration by Knight and Gastaut (Thumbelina, 2016, etc.) is an adaptation triumph that brings new depth to its subject matter while also maintaining its integrity and sense of magic. Gastaut’s art is reminiscent of an antique Chinese screen come to life. Every detail, from the piercing blue of the night sky to the redness of Eliza’s overworked hands, is utterly breathtaking. The tale’s focus on friendship rather than marriage transforms Eliza from a caricature of female sacrifice into a nuanced and empathetic three-dimensional character whose struggles demonstrate the depths of her love and compassion. The characters all appear to be white.
A must-have for all fairy-tale lovers. (Fiction. 5-10)