Adapted and illustrated
by Marcia Sewall,
The Green Mist
(Houghton Mifflin, 1999)

Marcia Sewall retells an old legend out of Lancashire in The Green Mist.

In times long past, there were two churches: the one in the village with its altar and its priests and the one that lived on in the rituals the villagers performed at night to appease and ward off bogles and evil spirits. These creatures were believed to work great mischief, especially when bored during the long winter months. Every year, the villagers waited anxiously for the Green Mist, the sign that the earth was waking up and that spring had arrived.

Sewall's tale concerns a family which seems especially plagued in spite of doing all the required rituals. The well runs dry, the cow stops giving milk, and then the youngest daughter falls ill. She wastes away slowly, although determined to hold on until the Green Mist arrives, certain that if she can last that long, she will survive. And, indeed, just as she is ready to give up, the Green Mist returns, and her health is restored.

Sewall's artwork is intriguing. The watercolor illustrations capture expressively the details of daily life. The pages are awash with varying tones of yellow, at times seeming bleak when representing the bare stubbly fields awaiting spring's arrival, then subtly shifting into warmer livelier tones when illuminating the girl. It is never fully explained exactly what the Green Mist is, but that really doesn't matter, since it reflects the various natural phenomena with which people had to contend. The Green Mist is an interesting glimpse into a time when nothing was taken for granted and when the mysteries of nature needed to be explained.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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