A few weeks ago, I received a very kind e-mail from Dan Goeller. Dan happened upon my post about Oscar Wilde's sons--Cyril, in particular--and he told me about a very special project he had recently completed. It turns out that Dan, a talented composer who has worked with the National Symphony, the Nashville Symphony, the Arkansas Symphony, and many others, recently composed music to accompany a new children's book adaptation of Oscar Wilde's short fairy tale "The Selfish Giant." Dan asked if I would be willing to review the book and I eagerly agreed, of course, because I love Wilde's work! As per blog rules, I must disclose to you that though I was approached to review the book, I have not been told what to say. So, everything below is my own opinion!
For those of you unfamiliar with Oscar Wilde's fairy tales, you might be very surprised to know that they largely convey traditional Victorian values and often convey a message grounded in Christian theology and morality. Such is the case with "The Selfish Giant," which is a fairy story about a giant who runs off a group of children who play in his garden each day. Once he banishes them, eternal winter visits his property, and it is only when he allows the children back in, seeing the gift that they are, that spring returns. There is one child in particular that brings this about--a symbolic Christ child--and he plays an especially important role in the ending of the story. As for the ending, it might shock some modern readers for its sadness and meaning, as we do not often see such subjects brought up in children's books (no, I won't spoil it!), but it should be known that Victorian children's stories did not shy from exposing darkness or sadness in their content.
So, okay...what makes this new version so amazing? Why not just download a free copy of "The Selfish Giant" on the internet and not spend money for a children's book? Well, I will tell you. Simply put, this version of Wilde's story is beautiful and amazing, and I cannot think of a better way to introduce a child to classic literature. (In fact, I would love to see this done with several classics!) The quality of work put into it stunned me. Wilde would have loved it. The illustrations by Beatrice are outstanding--exactly the kind of illustrations I dream of in children's books. And the accompanying CD that contains the narration of the story by Martin Jarvis (a British actor with an esteemed resume) and the musical adaptation of the story by Goeller...well, it is just beyond words to describe it! I honestly felt as if I were experiencing the same kind of magic that I found myself engulfed in when I saw Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Goeller specifically takes the story and puts it into music form, allowing the reader to have a comprehensive experience that goes beyond the page. Pop in the CD and you will be amazed. The musical score is gorgeous and each moment perfectly corresponds to both the illustrations and the narration. The emotion of the music and the meaning of the story...really, I am not talented enough to put it into words. If you are simply a fan of Wilde or Victorian literature and want a beautiful version of the story, or if you want to give an heirloom-type book to your child, this book would be a wonderful gift to yourself or to a child. It really is one of the highest quality children's book productions that I have seen in a very long time. Wilde once said that the story brought tears to his eyes each time he told it--and it is easy to see why.
So, do yourself a favor and check out "The Selfish Giant" adaptation by Goeller, Beatrice, and Jarvis. You won't be disappointed!
NOTE: This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and on "The Friendly Reader."