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

The Flint Heart

The Flint Heart

Fall 2011 Fiction
Ages: 7 - 12 yrs.
Author: Katherine Paterson
Illustrator: John Rocco
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763647124
Hardcover Price: $19.99

Katherine Paterson is the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and her writing resume is filled with wonderful work. The Flint Heart is her and husband John Paterson's abridged and updated version of an original story by Eden Phillpotts, originally published in 1910, enhanced by John Rocco's whimsical illustrations.

Thousands of years ago, a power-hungry Stone Age warrior came to Fum, the local sage, and demanded a talisman to make his heart hard so he could take over the village. Fum made a heart out of flint and set off a long line of trouble. The flint heart turned the respected warrior into a terrible ogre, hated and feared by all. At his death, Fum buried the awful heart with his ashes but that wasn't the end.

Three thousand years later, sweet Billy Jago digs up the flint heart on his farm and the cycle starts again. The heart makes him mean. He beats his children and cheats his neighbors. His two younger children, Charles and Unity, consult the fairies and are eventually able to get rid of the heart, but then the Jacky Toad finds it, and then the Badger. This is one stubborn heart.

It's a classic fairy tale - magical, colorful, with good lessons. Characters include a down-on-his-luck German water bottle named Bismarck, a Zagabob and a Snick. There are elaborate fairy banquets and at one of them, the wise Zagabob tells a very different version of The Hare and the Tortoise that teaches a valuable lesson about point of view.

The Patersons' humor is subtle and wry, their writing style is bouncy and fun and the characters are richly drawn and absurd. Reminiscent of C.S. Lewis and the Brothers Grimm, it's an entertaining tale for adults and children alike.

Teresa DiFalco   ©2011 Parents' Choice
Teresa DiFalco is an award-winning ghostwriter, writer, and mother in Vancouver, Washington. She's been a contributing editor for Parents' Choice for over ten years. She's a strong speller, a menace at badminton, and makes a decent soufflé.

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