A fairy tale in the grand tradition

The Cuckoo Clock, text by Mary Stolz, illustrations by Pamela Johnson (David R. Godine, $12.95, ages 7 to 11) is a charming fairy tale set in a village ``at the edge of the Black Forest in Germany.'' With more than 40 successful books for teen-agers to her credit, Mary Stolz can look forward to a warm response from readers and listeners of all ages with this delightful tale of Erich, a foundling who becomes ``a famous and great artist'' through his apprenticeship to Old Ula, a master craftsman. The tale opens, predictably, with ``Once upon a time,'' and young Erich, its hero, develops along classic lines. He is found bundled in swaddling clothes in a basket on the doorstep of Goddhart Manor. Frau Goddhart, a two-faced do-gooder who treats Erich as a Cinderlad at home, fills the role of the wicked stepmother. Herr Goddhart, her loving but docile husband, is patterned after the typical fairy-tale father.

Young Britt, daughter of the wealthy and villainous Baron Balloon, has surmounted the evil influence of her parents through surreptitious visits to gypsy camps, where she has acquired ``second sight.'' A budding wise woman, she reads Erich's palm and gives him her blessing when he sets out to seek his fortune after the death of Old Ula, who had presented Erich with two talismans - his finest tool set and his mellow old fiddle and bow. With such kindly helpers, and with the sympathy of all nature, Erich, we know, is bound for success.

Stolz also incorporates the witty, ironic tone of such fairy-tale tellers as Charles Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen. When Ula's customers expect immediate service, he jokes, ``To make a clock takes a good deal of time.''

Enhancing Stolz's story are Pamela Johnson's soft pencil illustrations. Her attention to detail, as in the intricately carved cuckoo clock, in the period costumes and furnishings, and especially in the very telling degrees of brightness in the characters' eyes, is marvelous. ``The Cuckoo Clock'' is a treasure.

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