Hsin-Shih Lai was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Her mother loved all the arts and sent Hsin-Shih to a paint-ing and drawing teacher when she was 4 years old. Since then, Hsin-Shih has not stopped painting. She went on to study painting and industrial design at the National Taiwan Academy of Art. After working for a while as a freelance illustrator, she met Anthroposophy and, in 1999, moved to the U.S., where she ompleted her eurythmy training in 2004. Hsin-Shih now lives in Spring Valley, New York, and works as an illustrator and performs with the Eurythmy Spring Valley touring group.
The inimitable Zwerger ('Twas the Night Before Christmas) and experienced translator Bell transform what in other hands has come off as a silly story into a captivating tale about the unwitting triumph of four aged animals who join together to create a band, foil a gang of robbers, and end up finding themselves a home. Zwerger's illustrations convey both poignancy and sly humor. A full-page, skillful portrait introduces each animal character, while at the top, spot art depicts their plights. The weariness of each elderly creature is plaintive, and Zwerger makes clear visually how the robbers might mistake the animals sitting atop each other for a monster. However, at the most dramatic moment of the story, when one of the robbers returns to the house to confront the sleepy animals inside, Zwerger leaves the details to readers' imaginations, using only shadowy gray figures to portray the literal action that occurs. Unlike Ilse Plume's sunny interpretation, this new version of the Grimm story focuses on how the four old creatures, despite their Quixote-like quest to become musicians, end up finding contentment anyway. Bell's translation adheres closely and gracefully to the original, and the theme of what might happen to those who outlive their usefulness ends on an enchanting, happy note. Ages 4-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
K-Gr 2-A competent translation and soft, minimalist paintings recount this oft-told tale. Many of the framed text pages carry a small portrait of a figure featured in the larger facing scene. This story is built around dialogue among a donkey, cat, dog, and rooster and rises to a bit of action in the two scaring-the-robbers scenes. The illustrations keep the speakers in the foreground with almost no details in the colored backgrounds except for very small, wispy overhead vignettes echoing story elements. These small, almost indistinct figures are vague and dreamy, and the soft forms and gentle tone of the pictures never build the humor usually associated with the plucky "musicians" and the villains. It's a pleasant introduction to the story, but the renditions by Hans Wilhelm (Scholastic, 1992), Janet Stevens (Holiday House, 1992), Ilse Plume (Yearling, 1998), and Paul Galdone (McGraw-Hill, 1968; o.p.) are stronger.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.