________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 19 . . . . May 15, 2009

cover The Queen of Paradise's Garden.

Andy Jones, adapter. Illustrated by Darka Erdelji.
St. John's, NL: Running the Goat Books & Broadsides, 2009.
42 pp., pbk., $18.95.
ISBN 978-0-9737578-3-5.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Alison Mews.

**** /4


So they had the three boys, Tom, Bill and Jack. Now by the time the boys grew up, their mother and father were very old, indeed some said as how their mother was a hundred and their father was a hundred and one.

And the boys were shockin worried about how old their mother and father were, and one day when the three boys were at the market they were talkin about it, and an old blind man by the name of Pew overheard them. Old Blind Pew was sellin baskets and he told the boys about a magic fruit that could make their father and mother young again. "But," said Old Blind Pew, "it only grows in the Queen of Paradise's garden, and that is three miles this side of the end of the world."

This little gem of a book brings a little-known Newfoundland folktale to a wider audience. A shorter version of this story (as told by Albert Keeping of Grand Bank) was transcribed and published in the seminal Folktales of Newfoundland (Halpert, Herbert and J.D.A. Widdowson, Vols. I and II. New York: Garland Publishing, c1996). Andy Jones, one of Newfoundland's foremost performers, dips into this collection when he seeks sources for his inspired adaptations of Newfoundland stories. He has carefully preserved the storyteller's cadence and colloquial language in this written version of a tale that begs to be read aloud. He embellishes the simple storyline with his trademark humour and creates memorable characters like Old Blind Pew (borrowing the name from Treasure Island) to develop it into a full-length story. Together with the illustrator Darka Erdelji, a puppeteer originally from Slovenia, Jones performed the story as a puppet play at the International Storytelling Festival last year in St. John's where it garnered rave reviews.

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     The story features Jack, the traditional third son and unlikely hero of many folktales in which he prevails over impossible odds with the assistance of magical gifts received for his acts of kindness. In this case, Jack shares his food with a little bird that his older brothers have denied. Their selfishness and his generosity result in the two brothers failing the quest while Jack gains entry into the garden, procures the fruit which will make his aging parents young again, and steals some magical objects that he distributes to those in need. And, of course, Jack acquires the ultimate reward - the Queen of Paradise herself. The story is deliciously predictable with the true delight obtained through the playful language and musical flow of the narration.

     Darka's whimsical folk-art illustrations set the tale firmly in make-believe territory where anything is possible. Her dreamy landscapes in blues and greens are perfectly suited to the nature of the magical quest, and her simple figures harken back to an earlier, less complex existence. She uses a combination of framed pictures and smaller images depicting vignettes from the story. Many of these involve small birds: a motif carried from the three nesting eggs on the first page and continuing with three white birds in cheery red vests who dramatize aspects of Jack's fantastic journey. These birds also reinforce the classic number three that is often found in traditional fairy tales and is liberally applied in this story.

     Andy Jones and Darka Erdelji, along with small press publisher Marnie Parsons and designer Veselina Tomova, have created a marvellous book that deserves a place in every school, library and folktale collection.

Highly Recommended.

Alison Mews is the Librarian at the Curriculum Materials Centre in the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NL.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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