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Cover illustration from The Mightiest Heart
The Mightiest Heart
Written by Lynn Cullen
Illustrated by Laurel Long

Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, NY 1998
5+ years

Stories that focus on a tragic miscarriage of justice are particularly compelling. The Mightiest Heart is about love and devotion that perseveres despite cruel and unfair rejection. Based on a Welsh legend, the story recounts the sad trials of the faithful hound Gelert, the Mightiest Heart. Gelert loves and is completely devoted to his master, Prince Llywelyn. But the prince is gradually turned away from his faithful friend by a mistrusting wife.
spacer Thinking that Gelert has harmed his infant son, Llywelyn attacks the poor animal. But then Llywelyn discovers that Gelert had actually defended the baby against a wolf attack. By this time, however, Gelert has fled into the wilderness.
spacer The distraught prince sets out to find Gelert to right the injustice he has caused. His search is unsuccessful until his own moment of great need, when a starving and lonely Gelert answers the call one more time to defend his master. Then Gelert is gone once again, and the prince is left to experience the anguish of his faithlessness to one who loved him so completely.
spacer Laurel Long's magnificent artwork created using oil paints on watercolor paper primed with gesso perfectly captures both Gelert's devotion and Llywelyn's grief. One scene, where Llywelyn cradles a starving Gelert who has just fought off a wolf who attacked his master, is emotionally riveting. The look of pain on Llywelyn's face radiates grief. The artist captures a moment of agony rarely seen in picture books. The portrayal of this tragic moment will hold anyone with compassion in their hearts spellbound. One only has to gaze at the face of the young prince to experience the pain he feels for being responsible for such a tragic blunder.
spacer If you love compelling artwork in service to a beautifully told story, then run, don't walk to your nearest bookstore to get this book. But be prepared. There is deep emotion here, emotion that is bound to stir sadness within. Yet this emotion is exactly what the author and illustrator hope to bring about. We are all reminded to see clearly what is most precious to us and to appreciate the devotion of those we love.

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