Reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tales, where children often live and work (and face weird horror) independently, this middle-grade fable manages to confront the very real cruelties and choices children have faced throughout time—such as bullying and whether to conform or stand out—without ever coming across as too grisly. However, while this is a tale and message as old as time, instead of ending on a happy and comfortable note like many modern and contemporary works, Adams closes with a provocative cliffhanger, sending the true but uncomfortable message that you never can know how others might react to your true self, but that it’s urgent to risk it anyway.
This brief but substantial story is heightened by effective and affecting prose (“Mil felt suddenly unclean in the presence of the mask. It was alive.:”) as well as Rohan Daniel Eason's eye-catching, evocative illustrations, often reminiscent in their spareness and line work of classic woodcuts. Adams’s family has done his work proud with this illustrated edition, and Adams deserves posthumous praise for capturing a timeless message with singular power.
Takeaway: Fans of vintage, creepy fairy tales will find more than a moral in this short but moving story.
Great for fans of: Hans Christian Andersen, Sally Gardner’s Tinder.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A