________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 36. . . .May 21, 2010


The Nightwood.

Robin Muller.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2010.
32 pp., hardcover, $20.99.
ISBN 978-1-77049-209-7.

Grades 4-6 / Ages 9-11.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4



As time passed, the branches of the trees grew so tangled that no daylight could penetrate its depths. The forest was given a new name: the Nightwood. For leagues around, people were warned never to go there, for the forest had become the home of the dreaded Elfin Queen.

First published by Doubleday in 1991, Robin Mullerís Celtic fairytale, The Nightwood, is to be re-released by Tundra in October 2010. I am pleased to see Mullerís work introduced to a new audience because this is a timeless, traditional tale of romance.

    When Elaine hears the beautiful music of elves, she is enticed into a dark and dangerous forest. Elaine is the daughter of a wealthy Earl, but, despite being blessed with affluence, once Elaine meets handsome Tamlynne in the forest, she can think of nothing but returning to be with the man who she loves.

     internal artMuller was awarded the prestigious Governor-Generalís Literary Award in 1989 for his artwork in The Magic Paintbrush. In The Nightwood, the detailed illustrations contain lots of energy and movement. This reflects the nature of the sprites and wood elves contained in many of the paintings. The shadows add a sombre mood to the artwork, complementing that dark feel within the text. Unlike modern versions of many traditional tales, here the story is not watered down to make it more palatable to a sensitive young audience. For some readers, this might make The Nightwood challenging, but for the mature young reader, this will make the story more appealing.

     The bookís lay-out consists mostly of full pages of text, with facing full-page illustrations. The text pages contain decorations, adding to the visual appeal of the book. The artwork depictions of the various characters feature expressive faces that evoke feelings of pity, sadness, excitement, passion and danger. The depiction of the Elfin Queen reminds me a great deal of the portrayal of the White Witch by Tilda Swinton in the recent Chronicles of Narnia films (Walden Media).

    The illustration on page nine is from the same viewpoint as that on page seven. As such, I was disappointed to note that the mural on the wall in the background is different. In what are detailed illustrations, the lack of attention to detail in this instance was surprising and, frankly, unsatisfactory. Elsewhere, the artwork is well done, and so, when combined with the strong text, this book will appeal to mature young readers with an interest in romantic traditional tales.


Gregory Bryan is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.

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

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