________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 2 . . . . September 17, 2004

cover The Three Hedgehogs.

Javier Sáez Castán.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2004.
32 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 0-88899-595-4.

Preschool-grade 1 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Sylvia Pantaleo.

***1/2 /4


     Act 1: The Robbery

Early one beautiful morning, three hedgehogs leave their house to look for food. They find a hole in a hedge and, lo and behold, they walk through it into an orchard! The hedgehogs tumble and roll among the apples, and the apples stick to their spines.

The three creatures return to their home and consume every apple. The farm woman is outraged by the serendipitous "theft" of her fruit. She rings a bell, and a formidable posse, including a small pink pig, sets out to capture the thieves. Without any tracks to follow, the posse returns home. However, they are resolved to capture the culprits in the spring.

      Act II: The Trial

When spring arrives, a larger posse sets off to arrest the thieves. The three hedgehogs, who have recently awoken from their winter hibernation, are trapped by the posse. As they plead for their lives, the farm woman orders the posse to lower their weapons as she has noticed an apple tree growing in the meadow. The apple tree explains the series of events that led to its birth, and the three thieves are now recognized as heroes for their good deed.

     Colophon: The Meal
     The Next Fall

The three hedgehogs and the people of the village have a feast, honouring the apple.

The beautiful paintings in the book deserve careful attention as much of the story is communicated visually. The illustrations on the end pages, frontispiece, title page and copyright page all need carefully viewing. The paintings, rendered in warm pastel colours and soft textures, reflect a mixture of art styles (impressionism and surrealism).

internal art     The endearing picture book is a pantomime told in two acts and a colophon. A symbolic blank white page follows each recto page that announces Act I and Act II. The book also contains a list of characters ("Dramatis Personae") as well as a glossary. The setting of the story is the French countryside, and there are both French and Latin words in the text, as well as two Chinese characters. It is necessary to consult the glossary to understand the foreign phrases. Some words are on superimposed on other illustrations and several of the phrases are puns.

     This charming book, The Three Hedgehogs, is the third picture book by Spanish author Javier Sáez Castán.

Highly Recommended.

Sylvia Pantaleo is an Associate Professor of Language Arts in the Faculty of Education, the University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.


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