written by Katherine Paterson & John Paterson, illustrated by John Rocco
Candlewick Press, 2011
Reviewed from personal copy.
An ambitious Stone Age man demands a talisman that will harden his heart, allowing him to take control of his tribe. Against his better judgment, the tribe’s magic man creates the Flint Heart, but the cruelty of it causes the destruction of the tribe. Thousands of years later, the talisman reemerges to corrupt a kindly farmer, an innocent fairy creature, and a familial badger. Can Charles and his sister Unity, who have consulted with fairies such as the mysterious Zagabog, wisest creature in the universe, find a way to rescue humans, fairies, and animals alike from the dark influence of the Flint Heart?I found this book rather intriguing for several reasons. First, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. I especially appreciate Rocco's use of color as well as the addition of silhouettes. The illustrations in my opinion are the best part of the book. That does not mean, however, that the writing wasn't good. The writing reminded me greatly of Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant. In other words, the writing was very lyrical and a delight to read. The book's design is superb, with just enough text and illustrations to make reading it a pleasure.
The second thing I found intriguing about this book was the story itself. This is not a fairy tale that I have heard before so I was interested to see how the story played out. The story itself kind of meanders. It is not really compelling so much as thought-provoking. Like most fairy tales, there is definitely a message here about leadership and wisdom versus greed and hunger for power. I think the book would be enjoyable for the right kind of reader, a more thoughtful reader. Quite a few kids might pick it up because of the gorgeous cover, but I wonder how many would actually finish it. On the other hand, the book would make for some very interesting discussions as a read-a-loud.