Simeon's Gift

Book review by
Patricia Tauzer, Common Sense Media
Simeon's Gift Book Poster Image
Magical fairy tale weaves rich tapestry for all.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's nothing objectionable in this beautiful fairy tale from the Julie Andrews Collection.

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What's the story?

In the hopes of becoming more worthy of his lady Sorrel's love, Simeon, a humble musician, sets off to learn more of the world so that he can create songs of his own rather than simply singing those of others. His adventures meander through the countryside until he final reaches the city, where the sounds and songs overwhelm him and, in despair, he gives up his lute altogether and heads back home.

On the journey home, with the companionship of a bird, fish, and a fawn, he gradually finds himself again and, of course, he and Sorrel live happily ever after.

Is it any good?

It's refreshing to find such a remarkable book as SIMEON'S GIFT, a true fairy tale with rich poetic text interwoven with amazing illustrations. This simple, gentle tale is enriched both by the figurative language in which it is told and the watercolor illustrations that hang like medieval tapestries on every page. Scattered with words not often found in kids books, like "encampment," "invigorated," and "cacophony" as well as similes, metaphors, and alliterations, the story becomes magical and musical.

The watercolor illustrations of Russian artist Gennady Spirin further enhance the music and the magic. Brilliant even in the paperback edition, each one is a masterpiece in detail, color, and technique, and brings to mind the work of the Renaissance masters. Because of its magnificent illustrations, the hardcover edition might be the better purchase -- it includes a CD of the story read by Dame Julie Andrews.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Simeon felt he had to find his own music. How would that make him worthier? Or happier? Why did the music of the city sound so discordant to him? Do you think he should have given up his lute altogether? What were the lessons he learned on the way back home and how did they help him find his way? Why is this book called Simeon's Gift? What gifts did he bring back home with him? This might also be a good time to explore life in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance: the music, art, clothing, abbeys, cathedrals, and castles with their tapestries.

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