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The Queen of Paradise’s Garden

by Andy Jones; Darka Erdelji, illus.

Andy Jones, a founder of the comedy troupe CODCO, retells a traditional Newfoundland tale here, just as he did in 2003’s Hackmatack Award-winning Peg Bearskin. The story features elements in common with many good folk tales: three sons (the youngest named Jack), a wise and beautiful sleeping queen, and a search for treasure. In this case, the three loving children set out in search of a magic fruit that will make their parents (ages 100 and 101) young again.

The ample delights in store are evident from the first line – “Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, not in your time, indeed not in my time, but in olden times, when quart bottles held half a gallon and houses were papered with pancakes and pigs run about with forks stuck in their backs seein who wanted a slice o’ham….” – and don’t flag right up to the last. In between, we follow Jack to the garden of the Queen of Paradise where, after overcoming numerous obstacles, he helps himself to the fruit – and a few magic items besides. His later kindness and good deeds (mixed in with a bit of good-hearted mischief) earn the Queen’s forgiveness for his trespasses.

Jones’s retelling effectively captures the rhythms of oral storytelling and the cadences of Newfoundland dialect. Illustrator Darka Erdelji’s illustrations are a fine match. Enchanting, magical, and very skillful, they blend rich, evocative blues, greens, and reds, delicate line drawings in black and white, and rough, folk-art representations of the characters. All in all, a wonderful, rollicking tale.