The Goblin and the Empty Chair


The Goblin and the Empty Chair by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

Long ago, a goblin caught sight on himself in a reflection.  Frightened so much by what he saw, he vowed never to show his face again.  He spent many years alone.  But then he saw a farmer stop chopping wood, sigh and put his face in his hands.  The goblin went to work that night and though he tried not to be seen, the farmer saw him.  The following day on the same farm, the goblin saw a woman stop  gardening and put her face in her hands.  That night the goblin again worked on the farm and though he tried to be careful, the woman saw him.  The next day, a child on the farm put down her book and buried her face in her hands.  That night, the goblin soothed her and sat with her and though he was careful, the girl saw him.  The next morning, the family gathered for breakfast at a table with one chair that had been empty all winter.  They left the door open for the goblin to come in and fill that empty chair. 

This book told is an original fairy tale by one of the world’s top story tellers.  Mem Fox has created a sympathetic character in a goblin, which one would not expect.  Her skill at the fairy tale format with its repetition and spare style is masterful.  She has created a story that is open wide with opportunity.  There is space here for haunting, for fear, for spine tingles and for a happy ending.

Leo and Diane Dillon took that opportunity and created a goblin that is graceful and princely, with large ears and flowing green hair.  Readers never see the goblin’s face, making him more of a tragic hero than a monster.  There is a touch of the Beast in Beauty and the Beast here, speaking about the quality of the internal rather than external.

A highly successful collaboration between a master storyteller and master illustrators.  Appropriate for ages 4-8. 

You can listen to Mem Fox read the book here.

Reviewed from library copy.

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