Friday 10 July 2020

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The Stone Giant by Anna Höglund   {Reviewed by STELLA}
Another new favourite from the Gecko Press stables, The Stone Giant is both beautiful and taut. It is fairy-tale telling reminiscent of Grimms', but not too scary for little ones. Anna Höglund, inspired by the Swedish author Elsa Beskow’s Tripp, Trapp, Trull, brings us a tale of bravery, audacity and cleverness. A child lives with her father on an island. When her father, who just happens to be a knight, has to leave her to fight a giant who is turning everyone to stone, she waits for his return. After everything is mended and tidied, she watches out the window for his return by day and lights a candle at the window by night to guide him home over the dark seas. She says goodnight to herself as she gazes into her hand mirror. As the days and nights go by, she starts to think about the stone giant, how the gaze of a giant might turn you to stone and wonders whether her father will ever return. She realises that she must venture out to find him. The sea is dark and cold, but luckily this girl can swim — she can swim a long way. When she reaches land again, the sun shines down and dries her, and ahead of her is a shining path. A path that leads her into the forest. She walks and walks. The sun sets and through the trees, she spies a cottage. An old woman invites her in, feeds her, gives her a bed for the night and sends her on her way with a useful item — an umbrella. She continues her quest until she reaches a barren and dismal land and here she meets the monster. Quickly the umbrella opens and covers the girl.  The monster is curious — who is hiding under the umbrella? What will the girl do? Clever and quick thinking makes the child the hero of this story. And yes, there is a happy ending! Anna Höglund’s text is sparse and direct, creating a harmonic synergy with the illustrations which are delicate and subtle in their detail. The quiet and contemplation in the first part of the book moves towards anticipation and endeavour as we venture with the girl in search of her father and the giant (who just happens to be a giant stone woman). Höglund’s illustrations are made by copper plate etchings and watercolour. They are expressive and have layers of depth, with her use of black and small petals of colour, not often seen in children’s books. Add to this the charm of the book’s design with its swirly green and red endpapers and a shiny hand mirror on the back cover and you will be charmed too with the brave young girl stepping out into the world to rescue her father in her red dress complete with pocket (useful for those everyday items that may defeat a giant). 

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