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Children's Literature Reviews
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The bottle imp
Robert Louis Stevenson ; illustrated by Jacqueline Mair.
Contributor biographical information
Publisher description
New York : Clarion Books, 1996.
60 p. : col. ill. ; 27 cm.


Keawe buys a magic bottle which brings him all that he desires but which he must sell before he dies in order to avoid spending eternity in hell.

Best Books:

Kaleidoscope, A Multicultural Booklist for Grades K-8, Third Edition, 2001 ; National Council of Teachers of English; United States

Reading Measurement Programs:

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 3-5
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 4
Lexile Measure NA


Hazel Rochman (Booklist, Feb. 15, 1996 (Vol. 92, No. 12))
Would you sell your soul to the devil? For wealth? To save the one you love? This tale of a genie in a bottle is part Arabian Nights fantasy, part Faust, with an intricately twisting story of love and adventure that shows how good and evil get all mixed up. First published in Samoa in 1891, when Stevenson was living in the South Seas, it's illustrated here with Mair's lush full-page paintings that openly evoke Gauguin in their views of the tropical islands and the people. The hero Keawe from Hawaii buys a magic bottle that will give him all he desires--provided he sells it, at a lower price, before he dies; otherwise he will burn in hell forever. Every time he gets his heart's desire, including the woman he loves, disaster comes along with the happiness. Suspense builds as the bottle gets sold from hand to hand at a lower and lower price. No one wants to be left with the accursed thing. The ending is a cop-out (they have to dump that bottle on someone else), but the combination of the supernatural and the very human struggle with greed and envy makes for a moving story. The crisis when Keawe and his wife each secretly try to save each other is a drama of love and redemption. Category: Middle Readers. 1996, Clarion, $16.95. Gr. 4-7.

Mary Sue Preissner (Children's Literature)
Reminiscent of Gauguin, Mair has used rich jewel tones to illustrate Stevenson's romantic story of Keawe and Kokua. Set in Hawaii, Keawe has purchased a magic bottle, which grants wishes. Stipulations with the bottle are that it will not provide immortality; that should the owner die before passing it along, he will "burn in hell for ever;" those not content with its gifts will experience tragedy; and it must be resold at a loss. Love involves sacrifice, as the reader quickly discovers. 1996, Clarion, $16.95. Ages 12 up.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
In the later years of his life, the Scottish-born Stevenson and his American wife moved to Samoa, where this tale was originally published, in Samoan, in 1891. Offering an engrossing spin on a time-honored theme-the risky business of making a pact with the devil-this short story is a radiant jewel. It recounts the mercurial lot of Keawe, a Hawaiian who purchases a bottle inhabited by an imp capable of granting any wish. Yet this enticing object holds a dark curse: anyone who dies with it in his possession will burn forever in hell. And here's the sticky rub: one can only sell the bottle for less than its purchase price. Keawe rids himself of the bottle after acquiring a palatial home. But when he needs it again to ensure his happiness with a newfound love, its cost is, chillingly, one cent, and the responsibility of ownership becomes a good deal more complex. Stevenson throws unexpected curves and laces his narrative with memorable imagery and canny understatement. Blending period and contemporary elements, Mair's warm, grainy paintings hold more than a hint of Gauguin's renderings of the tropics' lush vegetation and gleaming blue seas and skies. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 1996 (Vol. 49, No. 6))
A blend of folklore, morality tale, and absorbing fiction, Stevenson's story tells of a man, Keawe, who buys an imp in a bottle. This bottle will grant him all he requires, but he must sell it before he dies or else be damned for eternity, he must sell it for less than he paid, and the payment must be in coin. Well and good: Keawe uses the imp to give himself a beautiful and happy house and to win himself a lovely woman, Kokua, and then sells the bottle-unfortunately he then discovers he is suffering from leprosy, so buys the bottle back to cure himself and stay with his beloved Kokua. Now, however, the bottle must be sold for less than one cent, and who would buy it even if that were possible? The story is both moving and slyly clever, but it is long and leisurely paced. The oversized format makes the volume resemble a picture book, but the design makes the text dauntingly dense on the glossy pages. Thickly brushed watercolors in intense and vivid island hues appear periodically; they are decorative but don't enhance the story much. Ad--Additional book of acceptable quality for collections needing more material in the area. Reviewed from galleys (c) Copyright 1996, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 1996, Clarion, [60p], $16.95. Grades 5-8.


LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.S8482 Bo 1996
95031742 [Fic]
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