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Paula FitzGerald
Illustrated by Debra Hanson
Waterloo (Ont.), Penumbra Press, 1992. 44pp, paper, $12.95
ISBN 0-921254-35-0. Distrib­uted by University of Toronto Press.

Grades 3 to 8/Ages 8 to 13

Reviewed by Maryleah Otto.

Volume 21 Number 4
1993 September

The original Spanish story of King Rigel, on which Paula FitzGerald has based this version, was written by Dr. Mario Gonzalez-Ulloa. It is a classical tale of the failure of material wealth to satisfy the longing within the human soul for ultimate union with God.

Rigel is a good king, much admired by his people. He has acquired everything he can think of but he has a feeling there is still something he should have. One day he sees a lovely young woman in the garden and when "he looked into her eyes he could only feel as if God were looking at him." He realizes that he wants this young woman to stay with him always, but at that moment she disappears. More miserable than before, Rigel summons his philosophers, one of whom advises him that if the heavenly girl really means more to him than anything else, he must go in search of her.

The king sets out on a long, lonely quest, during which he must overcome almost impossible difficulties that require him to abandon his worldly treasure and to go forward on faith. Finally victorious, Rigel enters the "single reality of Oneness" and the angel-girl returns to him.

FitzGerald's long prose-poem is written with a light touch, even comic moments, in contemporary language. It is full of action, drama and suspense. Yet it retains the classical elements of epic poetry. Debra Hanson, who has won awards for her stage designs at the Stratford Festival Theatre, has filled the pages with magnificent black-and-white drawings. This limited edition of 1000 copies will be welcomed by collectors of hero tales and legends.

Recommended for school and public libraries.

Maryleah Otto is a children's author and librarian in St. Thomas, Ontario.
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