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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Goblin and the Empty Chair, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon. Simon & Schuster, 2009. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"In a time long past, in a land far away, there lived
a goblin who had once seen himself reflected in a still pond.
His reflection had frightened him so much, he decided to hide
his face from the world forever, so as not to frighten anyone else."

Following his startling and very disheartening discovery the goblin spent many years in solitude. Always careful not to be seen, the goblin was walking one day in the countryside when he saw a farmer stop his work. He appeared desolate and unable to go on with what he was doing. The goblin decided to help and so, at night, he went to work and did all that the man had been unable to do. He did not realize as he worked that someone was watching. The following day he noticed that the farm woman was also unbearably sad. He did her work and was unknowingly watched once again. And on the very next day, he observed a young girl succumb to sorrow as she worked at her books. He sat and soothed the child and did not realize that she was silently watching him.

In the morning, the family sits staring at the empty chair at their table. The woman sets a place, the farmer fills the plate and the young girl throws open the door, in hopes that the goblin will join them. The goblin is frightened of what they might think of him when they finally see his abhorrent face. He need not have worried.

This lovely tale of friendship, compassion and sorrow is beautifully illustrated with soft, gentle colors and an accompanying series of border images which add a visual text for young readers. The goblin is a sympathetic and wise creature who brings joy to a house that has had little throughout the winter, since their son and brother died. The goodness that is in the goblin's heart brings some joy back. Be sure to check out the illustration on the back cover. It hints at a 'happily ever after' ending.

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