CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 16. . . .December 17, 2010.
The Sky Tree: A Trilogy of Fables.
P.K. Page. Illustrated by Kristi Bridgman.
Lantzville, BC: Oolichan Books, 2009.
83 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Children's stories, Canadian (English).
Fables, Canadian (English).
Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Gail de Vos.
As he grazed, a beautiful girl approached, opened a gate, and put her hand on his head.
"I hope you will be happy here," she said.
Forgetter could hardly believe his ears. She was actually speaking his language.
"Why," he said, astonished, "you speak Goat."
"Not very good Goat," the girl replied apologetically.
"But I could teach you," said Forgetter eagerly, for now he had forgotten how tired he was, he had even changed his mind about people, and he wanted to stay in that garden forever. "I could give you lessons. Go on, say something-any old thing will do-and I'll correct you if you're wrong."
The girl spoke slowly and carefully. "I was a goat once," she said.
Forgetter laughed and laughed. "You were never a goat," he said. "What you mean is that you had a goat once."
"You remind me of my friend," she went on.
"No, no, no!" said Forgetter, laughing again. "Wrong word. What you mean is that I remind you of your goat."
The girl shook her head as if she knew something he didn't and gave him a loving pat. Forgetter had never felt so happy.
The subtitle of this illustrated book is A Trilogy of Fables; however, all three stories are intertwined, telling different aspects of the same story, and not fables at all. The first tale begins with the search for a husband for the Princess of Ure. Three men vie for her hand, and undergo great trials to prove themselves worthy of her in their quest to bring back water from the sea to the landlocked kingdom. Her true love, the goat herder Galaad, wins as one knows he must for he follows the dictates of folktales, being kind and attentive to old ladies, animals and the land, itself. The second story relates the adventures of a goat who, unlike the other goats under Galaad's care, did not return to his original form as human when Galaad bested the wizard on his way to return to the Princess. Forgetter, or Erland as he was once known, makes his own way back to the sea encountering and defeating the same wizard in his successful quest to become human once more. The third story gathers the aging characters from the first two episodes, rejuvenating them on a magical adventure to seek the vanquished and transformed, and now friendly wizard. The two couples, Galaad and Princess Meera and Erland and Corille (the young girl in the excerpt above), follow the fairy godmother into the Sky Tree and the Land of Faerie, (perhaps Heaven) leaving Treese, the young prince, to become King in their stead. Someday, his parents assure him, he can follow them.
P.K.'s poetic voice resonates through this book, gathering and weaving folktale motifs into her own slightly saccharine story. There is plenty of adventure but no real feeling of threat or anxiety as the characters follow the paths laid out for them. A pleasurable read, perhaps even an evocative one, but not one that young readers will necessarily appreciate. This is a book for adults, looking back to the pleasure they remember from the fairy stories of their youth. Nine full-page paintings by Kristi Bridgeman reflect the blues and greens mentioned so often in the narrative. The paintings are also reflective of the action of the story but do not move the action forward. They are, for the most part, pretty pictures nestling in a book of appealing words. For large collections of Canadiana.
Gail de Vos teaches at the School of Library and Information Studies for the University of Alberta and is the author of eight books on storytelling and folklore.
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