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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Raphael and the Noble Task by Catherine Salton 
22nd-Dec-2007 11:59 pm
Salton, Catherine. Raphael and the Noble Task. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.
          Summary: The chimere Raphael is restless, and the apparent solution is a Noble Task. When he sees a baby abandoned on the cathedral steps, he believes that caring for the child when the monks cannot for lack of food is his Task. But then its mother returns, and Raphael, both in love with the child and eager to prove his goodness to the world, does not give it up when he should. To return the child, he--a griffin statue made of stone--must fly, which he does, and this proves him worthy of the title "Great Guardian."
          Comments: I bought little book on a whim quite awhile ago, thinking perhaps that it would be vaguely entertaining. Well, it's thoroughly exceeded my expectations. Salton has a lovely, musical prose style perfect for a fairytale that might do double duty as children's literature, and her characters are memorable and sympathetic--Madra-Dubh and Raphael especially. You're genuinely made to care about their exploits. David Weitzman's delightful illustrations add an extra special dimension to the overall presentation of this already attractive clothbound book; Raphael might be made of stone, but Weitzman's pen renders his expressions subtly and exquisitely. Each image brought a smile to my face.
          As you may have guess from the Medieval cathedral setting, this book is quite Christian in its sentiments and inspiration. All of the statues and resident animals revere the "Architect"--there's a convenient yet thematically consistent edict that they leave the humans to walk alone. And of course Raphael's "Noble Task" is not caregiving per se but rather sacrifice in the name of selfless love. Err..."Jesus loves you," anyone? But you can still be an atheist like me and enjoy the story for its own sake. Besides, it makes for a wonderful addition to the holiday season, as it was intended (which, no, I did not know when I purchased the book), and nobody's gonna tell me that holiday celebrations aren't for everyone.
          Notes: hardcover, 1st edition
          Rating: 6.5/10 - Pleasantly diverting and reasonably inoffensive in its lukewarm Christian spirituality.
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