Book Title: The Golden Cage (available here)
Author: Anna Castagnoli
Illustrator: Carll Cneut
Publisher: Book Island Ltd
Publication Date: September 2019
Most Suitable For: KS2
Reviewed by: Suzanne Booth, Class Teacher
Valentina is an emperor’s daughter who has everything she could ever wish for. Sadly, she is not a very pleasant person; she is single-minded, stubborn and vile. Despite all the treasures, clothes and shoes she has, she has only one true love – birds.
Valentina likes to collect birds (and in particular exotic birds), and she uses her long-suffering servants to find them for her despite knowing the gory consequences of returning empty-handed - chop, chop chop! She wants a bird with a coral bill, a bird with glass wings, but eventually sets her heart on one particularly special bird to fill her last cage, which is the golden cage. A brave servant who finally approaches suggesting that he will be able to fulfill Valentina's wish in exchange for a promise, but as usual in the land of fairy tales, things do not always go the way you expect.
The Golden Cage is a beautiful book with its oversized layout that allows you to be absorbed in the stunning illustrations on every page. The talented work of Carll Cneut, who is an internationally highly regarded illustrator, is exceptional and makes this book a draw for art lovers and book lovers alike. But this is also a ‘mouth aghast’ book on more than just the obvious visual level. The publishers describe this book as ‘A deliciously dark European fairy tale with words as rich as its bold and luxurious illustrations’ and this is a perfect summary. It is dark indeed with lots of heads being chopped off and the young female protagonist is a thoroughly spiteful child. The publisher suggests the book is suitable for ages 6+ and in a classroom with younger children some discussion may be needed, but as a teacher I can hear the over-the-top ‘ergh’ in the classroom as the children are disgusted but equally enjoy revelling in the gruesomeness of the fairytale tropes.
The Golden Cage may be no ordinary book, but its mix of traditional fairy tale features with a dark twist and magnificent illustrations make this a wonderfully exciting exploration.
Many thanks to the publisher for sending us a review copy of this book and to Review Panel member Suzanne for reviewing it.
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