Reviews /

The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales

Authored by Jane Ray
Illustrated by Jane Ray
Published by Boxer Books

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The Emperor’s Nightingale and Other Feathery Tales:

Jane Ray is a versatile artist. Her work has appeared on textiles, greeting cards and, best known to us, her sumptuous, richly adorned picture books. The work here, a reissue of a book first published in 2013, is comparatively spare – stripped back to essential lines and planes of black and white. They could be linocuts or other sorts of prints, they could even be digitally produced. This element of mystery befits the stories retold within: stories that have changed shape and perspective in the hands of different narrators over the years. The versions here are pacy and easy to read with moments of wit.

Jane Ray introduces each entry with an historical or cultural note and a pleasing endorsement. ‘I love this story because …’ is a frequent refrain that conveys her enthusiasm. This makes the volume feel personal and I’m sure will encourage discussion of favourite stories and the reasons for their appeal. The illustrations aside, not all the entries are her own work. There are extracts from the bible, from Emily Dickinson and Edward Lear, and retellings from several writers including Ann Jungman, who is credited with helping research the stories.

If you are looking to offer young readers a smorgasbord of retellings of traditional stories from which they can choose their own to love and know by heart, then this well-presented book would be a welcome addition to such a library.