Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys by Norton Juster, illustrated by Domenico Gnoli (Random House/Yearling 2010)

September 10, 2010 at 1:48 pm Leave a comment

Watching people offers endless pleasure. In these three tales we find a simple farm lad looking for his life’s calling in the great world beyond, two kings who must find out whether other kings live like they do, and a boy who refuses to have opinions until he is transported into a painting where he must take sides. Juster keenly observes how people act. All of his characters undergo transformation.. Alberic,  a young peasant, tries unsuccessfully to become an artisan; first he apprentices himself to a stained glass artist, then a stone cutter, goldsmith, leather worker, and glassblower. Finally, he gains success from telling stories about his life. But even that becomes too confining and he gives up a position in court to become a traveler of the open road. A less compelling tale is “She Cries No More.” In this story a youngster Claude refuses to have opinions because he is indifferent to everything. That is, until he goes to a museum and sees a painting of a young girl. Suddenly he finds himself in the painting and converses with Elena. Elena’s father, the king, has been murdered and there is fighting between those loyal to her father and the evil attackers. Claude fights for Elena. But all too soon he is back in his own world and he returns to an attitude of indifference. The final tale shows two kings who become dissatisfied with their lives. One is poor and wants to know whether that is the fate of other kings. The other is rich and wants to know whether other kings are even richer. Juster turns the tables on these two and resolves the story with an imaginative twist. These tales would make an interesting discussion and are probably best appreciated when read aloud.

J-Recommended—Lillian Hecker (PEL)

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