THE GOLDEN SERPENT

If it's appropriate for a story about a kvetch "to have a Yiddish flavor" (see Chapman, above), it may be appropriate for a story of ineffable wisdom to be set in India; the problem is that it has no flavor. It starts out in fact, for all its atmospheric illustrations, as still another tale of a wise-man-on-a-mountain and his young helper, related in banal primer prose: "Ali would take the answers down the mountain. He would give them to the waiting people. Pundabi and All lived well this way, and the people loved them dearly." What happens is that the king gets wind of Pundabi's gifts, calls him to the palace, and asks him to solve a mystery—what mystery "is for you to discover!" So, while All quakes and shakes, Pundabi observantly walks around and discovers, he says, "the mystery of the Golden Serpent." The king of course didn't know he had one; and, searching, can't find it—the people are too crippled to steal anything, too poor to conceal anything. The king, disconcerted, pays Pundabi his promised golden coins to get rid of him, and Pundabi gives them to the poor folk just met. A "wise and generous solution," as All says; but what of Pundabi's promise to the king that, when he opens his eyes, he'll find the Golden Serpent. "No," he won't, Pundabi agrees; "Some people never do. But that is another mystery." However kids construe this, it has only Pundabi's wise stratagem to commend it: the telling has no lift, the pictures have a cliched, picturesque likeness to India but no conviction.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 1980

ISBN: 0670344451

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS

With the same delightfully irreverent spirit that he brought to his retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" (1987), Marshall enlivens another favorite. Although completely retold with his usual pungent wit and contemporary touches ("I don't mind if I do," says Goldilocks, as she tries out porridge, chair, and bed), Marshall retains the stories well-loved pattern, including Goldilocks escaping through the window (whereupon Baby Bear inquires, "Who was that little girl?"). The illustrations are fraught with delicious humor and detail: books that are stacked everywhere around the rather cluttered house, including some used in lieu of a missing leg for Papa Bear's chair; comically exaggerated beds—much too high at the head and the foot; and Baby Bear's wonderfully messy room, which certainly brings the story into the 20th century. Like its predecessor, perfect for several uses, from picture-book hour to beginning reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140563660

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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