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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-07-18
- Reviewer: Staff
A full century after the publication of Eden Philpotts's The Flint Heart (Dutton, 1910) the story resurfaces in the capable hands of the Patersons (Blueberries for the Queen), who stay true to the language and story line of the original, preserving the book's humor, whimsy, and enchanting storytelling. In both versions, a Stone Age power grab leads to the creation of the eponymous Flint Heart, which hardens the heart of its bearer and results in a lust for absolute control and few qualms about cruelty. The Flint Heart remains buried for thousands of years until unearthed by a kind farmer, where it soon wreaks havoc over his family and a memorable cast of pixies, fairies, imps, and even a German-made hot water bottle in early 20th-century England. Much of what makes the book so delightful can be found in its original incarnation, but the Patersons have done a stellar job of maintaining the book's period feel while creating a fresher, tighter story that feels tailor-made for family reading, just before bed, one chapter per night. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 7–12. (Sept.)
Retelling a timeless story
It was only a modest charm, a black heart with a hole right through it, shaped from flint during the Stone Age. But if the Flint Heart was black, so too became the heart of whoever possessed it. In the village of Grimspound, in the south of England, a warrior named Phuttphutt came into possession of the Flint Heart, and it turned him into an evil man. He killed Chief Brokotockotick, took over as the new chief and ruled with an iron fist, his long and bloody reign only ending with his death, when the creator of the Flint Heart buried it with Phuttphutt’s ashes under piles of rocks, where he hoped it would remain forever.
Thousands of years later, Billy Jago of Merripit Farm finds the Flint Heart, and the kind family man becomes rough and cruel. His children, Charles and Unity, seek help from the pixies. The marvelous world of the fairies comes alive for readers as fairies and humans work together to break the power of the Flint Heart and set the world right again.
In this fantasy “freely abridged” from the 1910 original by Eden Phillpotts, the prose by the husband-and-wife team of Katherine and John Paterson retains some of the Edwardian voice of the original and laces the story with understated humor. John Rocco’s digitally colored pencil drawings provide a perfect complement, glowing with fairy light. The full-page art, chapter headings and decorations make this a lovely volume, reminiscent of the Robert Louis Stevenson classics illustrated by N.C. Wyeth.
The Patersons have given new life to Phillpotts’ original, retaining and enhancing the magical wonder of a tale that ought to endure as a classic. This beautifully made book exemplifies, as John Rocco said in a recent interview, “the importance of the physical book for children in this ever-growing digital age.”