Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
The Goblin and the Empty Chair

The Goblin and the Empty Chair

Fall 2009 Picture Books
Ages: 5 - 8 yrs.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Hardcover Price: $17.99
Formally cadenced fairytale language introduces this story of a goblin who finds his own visage too scary to bear. "In a time long past, in a land far way, there lived a goblin who had once seen himself reflected in a still pond." After many years of self-imposed isolation, the proverbial "one day" comes when he sees an exhausted farmer chopping away at a gigantic stump. When the farmer leaves, the goblin "went to work. He dug where digging was needed. He chopped where chopping was needed." Other acts of kindness follow: he tends a tired woman's garden and he soothes a fretful child. As the reader comes to discover, the man, the woman, and the child are all related to each other and the goblin's acts of kindness have not gone unremarked. In true fairytale fashion, a meal is all it takes to draw the shy goblin into the bosom of the family. "They looked at one another and smiled. And they began to eat." Elegant is the operative word to describes the Dillon's formally composed illustrations: golden goblin faces peek from the edges of each border, their expressions changing as the story progresses; a frieze at the top of each page amplifies the action taking place in the picture below; the palette is carefully controlled, muted but rich and infused with golden light; and the people-including even the goblin-are big-eyed and beautiful. The highly traditional construction (three tired people, three acts of kindness, love as the elixir that brings resolution) and the sumptuous illustrations make this fairytale-nouveau look and feel like it sprang from ancient soil.
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard   ©2009 Parents' Choice
Kristi Elle Jemtegaard is the Coordinator of Youth Services for the Arlington Public Library system. She has taught courses on children’s and young adult literature at the Catholic University of America and the University of Virginia. She has served on both the Newbery and Caldecott Award Committees of the American Library Association and has chaired the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee and the May Hill Arbuthnot Award Committee. She is a member and past president of the Children’s Book Guild of Washington DC and has chaired the Washington Post–Book Guild Nonfiction Award Committee. She is a founding member of Capitol Choices, an organization of professionals in the field of children’s literature in the greater Washington DC area. She regularly reviews children’s literature and audio productions for a variety of national publications.

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