Dove Isabeau

This original fairy tale, about a young woman who becomes a dragon has many aspects of an old fairy tale–a wicked stepmother, an enchantment, a handsome prince who breaks the spell. But as it was written in the end of the 20th century, the young woman is as much rescuer as rescued. Both hero and dragon have to take on male and female aspects before they are ready to become man and wife. Those readers who know ballads will recognize Kemp Owyn from the Scottish border ballad. I borrowed the name “Isabeau” from one of my favorite movies, “Ladyhawk.” Dennis Nolan’s pictures are astonishing. I had to convince the editor to use him. She only knew his realistic nature work. When he delivered the illustrations, the editor sent me flowers in thanks. I think his red dragon is one of the most amazing creatures in children’s books.

What reviewers have said:

  • “Skillfully interweaving motifs from traditional lore into a flowing, rhythmic text, Yolen spins a fine, original tale. The nonstereotypical heroine, Dove Isabeau, is transformed into a fire-breathing, carnivorous dragon by her evil stepmother, but Isabeau’s true love is willing to risk all to release her. Handsome watercolor illustrations capture the romantic mood and suggest, through luminous seascapes, the cold northern locale of the story.” — Horn Book
  • “Yolen’s new fable, redolent with myths ageless and archetypal, strikes at the heart. … Word and picture are wedded here in perfect harmony. Nolan’s somber, lucid watercolors, full of detail, show the interior of the castle, the witch’s tower room, the transformation of gentle Isabeau into the fearsome, ugly dragon.” — Publishers Weekly
  • “Isabeau, always dressed in gray or white, like a dove, is a brilliant fairy tale heroine, who is loved by Kemp Owain, the king’s son, and who is betrayed by the witch, her stepmother. Isabeau becomes a fiery dragon, and only her little white kitten can save her. But who will listen to a cat? Highly recommended for all fairy tale lovers, of all ages.” — Children’s Literature
  • “A cold, craggy northern shore is the setting for Yolen’s haunting tale of dark sorcery, which she richly embroiders with traditional fairy-tale conventions and imagery. Nolan’s dramatic watercolors are nothing short of magical. The blues and grays of the rocks, the sky, and the sea capture in turn the stark beauty and menacing nature of the cliffs. His realistic renderings of people are extremely effective, and his majestic wyrm could strike fear in the bravest of the brave. The exquisite book design and sophisticated themes of self-sacrifice, good triumphing over evil at a cost, and lost innocence suggest a mature audience. A powerful and appealing picture-book fantasy with a ‘happily ever after’ ending.” — School Library Journal
  • There is a board book version as well. Philomel ISBN 978-0-399-25060-6″Yolen’s evcative writing brings richness to this original story which injects elements from many familiar fairy tales–Snow White among them. Nolan’s intense paintings reflect the cold atmosphere of the setting and the icy heart of the wicked witch, while at the same time augmenting the story’s darkness.”–Booklist
  • “A powerful and powerfully told story. . .”–Kirkus
  • “. . .a gorgeous picture book with a very well-told story. . . slightly subversive story =, one to give girls a bit more of a model for action in the world than the standard fairy story.”–Locus

Available only in paperback now.


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