________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 1 . . . .September 2, 2005


Mrs. Goodhearth and the Gargoyle.

Lena Coakley. Illustrated by Wendy Bailey.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2005.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 1-55143-328-1.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Valerie Nielsen.

***½/ 4

Reviewed from f&g's.



The gargoyles of Great House never moved—not in spring, when birds nested between their ears; not in winter, when icicles formed on their chins.

They were all still as stone—except for one.


That one gargoyle is the unlikely protagonist of Lena Coakley's intriguing and unusual picture book, Mrs. Goodhearth and the Gargoyle. When dignified, silver haired Mrs. Goodhearth moves into Great House, the gargoyle is delighted. Now he has someone to watch and to tease. The gargoyle shakes blossoms onto Mrs. Goodhearth's head as she breakfasts on the upstairs balcony and drops acorns and twigs into her tea.

     He is confident that Mrs. Goodhearth doesn't see him, but one day she leaves something shiny and small on the balcony. The gargoyle climbs down to the balcony and picks up the mysterious object.

How exquisite it was. He wound his long tongue around and around it.

He wove it in and out between his toes. It was a spoon.

     When the weather turns cold, Mrs. Goodhearth no longer appears on her balcony. The gargoyle is certain he has been forgotten. He mopes, deciding he will be just like the other gargoyles, "as still as sadness." Then one wintry day, Mrs. Goodhearth reappears with his precious spoon and a clever plan which culminates in a meeting with her stony friend. The ending of Mrs. Goodhearth and the Gargoyle is one that will delight readers young and old.

internal art     The development of a friendship between a mischievous, hyperactive gargoyle and an elegant, elderly woman is an unusual, if not bizarre, idea for a picture book. Yet the theme of love and loneliness is beautifully served in this stunningly illustrated book.

     Wendy Bailey's gargoyle is both hideously ugly and entirely lovable. Her depiction of Mrs. Goodhearth's face captures the character's compassionate nature and intuitive wisdom perfectly.

     Linda Coakley's simple, well-crafted prose is well suited to a story where much meaning lies between the lines. Young listeners will no doubt argue as to whether or not Mrs. Goodhearth knows that the gargoyle is watching and teasing her and why a spoon is so attractive to a gargoyle. Mrs. Goodhearth and the Gargoyle should prove a most satisfactory story time read-aloud for the 5 to 8 age group.

Highly Recommended.

A retired teacher-librarian, Valerie Nielsen lives in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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