>> Tuesday, November 17, 2009
It's not often that I get to plug a children's book created by someone I know well, but a good friend of mine from college has happily provided me with such an opportunity. The Goat-Faced Girl updates and reinterprets a classic Italian folktale, offering a non-preachy lesson in the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of hard work. Written by Leah Marinsky Sharpe and illustrated by Jane Marinsky (a mother-daughter pair), the book wittily winds its way through the forest and the palace.
The foundling raised by a lizard-sorceress appears destined for the perfect life of princess sloth, until her wise mother intervenes. Torn from a world of lazy luxury, the would-be princess doth protest; yet through a series of trials emanating from the transformation into the "goat-faced girl," the wisdom of her mother prevails and, moreover, reveals the importance and power of hard work and self-reliance.
From the opening lines on, the book invokes, mimics, and drolly engages classic folklore motifs and language: "Once upon a time, long ago and far away, a baby was left in the forest. This event wasn't so strange in itself, for lost children appeared in this particular forest every third Thursday. But this foundling was an infant girl who was far too young for quests, unable to understand talking animals, and even too young to interest the witch in the gingerbread house." Of course, the baby can't rest in the forest for long, and along comes a lizard to save the day. But the forest residents -- which must, the gingerbread reference implies, include at least a few gossipy old hags -- can only look on in wonder as the lizard rescues the child and spares the animals "a tripping hazard" that leads the group "not to interfere with the lizard's plans." Raised by a magical lizard, Isabella grows and approaches adolescence and maturity with but one flaw: laziness.
To see how the lizard mother helps transform Isabella into more than a lazy young woman attracted to an equally lazy Prince Rupert, read the book! Leah first told and refined this tale while babysitting, and its sophisticated yet clear prose shows the strength of time-tested modern story-telling. Accompanied by rich illustrations, The Goat-Faced Girl is a visual and linguistic treat. Jane Marinsky's illustrations are vivid and detailed, offering much to delight in, linger over, and savor.
Find it at your local bookstore, library, or online here. For less than $12 (on Amazon, anyways), it will make an excellent holiday and/or birthday gift.