Three Ladies Beside the Sea
Edward Gorey and Rhoda Levine's 1963 picture book is reissued by the New York Review Children's Collection.
Mon Jul 19 2010
Ladies Beside the Sea
Photographs: Caroline Voagen Nelson
Acclaimed choreographer and opera director Rhoda Levine was immortalized—and immediately offed—by maestro of macabre Edward Gorey in his 1963 book The Gashlycrumb Tinies, which details the untimely, wickedly amusing deaths of an alphabet's worth of children. Earlier that year, the real-life "R is for Rhoda consumed by a fire" and Gorey collaborated on a very different book, Three Ladies Beside the Sea. Newly reissued by the New York Review Children's Collection ($15, ages 3 to 7), the rhyming story concerns an Edwardian musical trio "of great nobility": Edith of Ecstasy plucks at a lute, while Catherine of Compromise bows her cello. Alice of Hazard plays the flute—and a key role in upsetting the group's harmony. Plagued by the memory of an elusive songbird, Alice takes to a tree, unable to keep her feet on the ground while her head is in the clouds.
Levine wrote seven children's titles, including a second with Gorey (1968's He Was There From the Day We Moved In). But today the Greenwich Village resident focuses on stage work, including that of her improvisational opera company, Play It By Ear. She regards her kids' books as "lucky accidents"—far more fortuitous, certainly, than going up in flames.—Meghan Killeen