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The Three Golden Keys
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The Three Golden Keys

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  392 ratings  ·  59 reviews
World-renowned artist brings the magic of Prague and its legends to life

In this allegorical tale, a man in a hot-air ballon is thrown off course in a violent storm, landing him in the city of his youth. He finds the way to his old home, but the house is dark, with three rusty padlocks on the door. A black cat with eyes of fire appears and leads him through Prague's silent
Hardcover, 64 pages
Published October 3rd 2001 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (first published 1994)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
Rating details
 ·  392 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Dec 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I find it hard to believe that this book has only 300 ratings on here, when its been around for 15+ years. Such is the unfortunate case tho, I guess, with picture books on a literary social media site. Novels and collections and non-fiction get 90% of the attention. No matter tho; that has no bearing on this one!

I am glad to have finally read this tonight for multiple reasons:

1- it's an excellent story. Some big words strewn about the minimal text give it more depth, the pictures are wonderful,
Nov 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not sure how I've managed not to read any of Peter Sís's work before. His drawings are amazing...surreal, whimsical, and engrossing. I just love his style, which also happens to capture the essence of Prague so well. I felt like I was there again.

Sís references a few of Giuseppe Arcimboldo's paintings, which is amusing. It's kind of a sneaky way to insert some art history, although he doesn't go further than saying he recognizes the character from an "old painting". An enterprising parent could
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: illustrated, culture
I picked this up thinking it was something different. It was just ok for me.
Jan 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this book in peter sis's former house in Prague (Which is now a lovely tea house - the front door has been inscribed with "Tea is not dead") which added to the magic if anything. At the time I read through it and considered picking up a copy (I don't even know if they sold them there and we had very few crowns on us).

The book evokes so much of prague, it's windy old town streets, the buildings that have been tacked on to buildings, the legends that have grown up in the city and even the
Shayla Morgansen
Dec 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked this up on my way through glorious Prague as a memento, thinking it would be a fun introduction to Czech folklore for my class of seven-year-olds. It kept them mesmerised as I read it, but I don't think any of it sunk in. It's a little dark and the concepts of reflection and regret are too high for young children. This is a picture book for adults, or perhaps older children than what I teach, littered with hidden hints and detail, and the references to the folk stories are really for so ...more
Heather Fryling
Feb 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
A beautiful, intricately illustrated book. Explores themes of loss, homecoming, and cultural identity. And fairy tales. Wonderful fairy tales.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
There are 3 folktales embedded in the story of this man who has lost his way in time.
This book, written when Sís's daughter was a mere toddler, is dedicated to her so that she can look back on part of the rich heritage that he has transmitted to her. Peter Sís was born in Czechoslovakia and left his beloved city of Prague in 1968. Here he tells the tale of a man in a balloon, who lands in the middle of Prague and sets out to find his childhood home. When he finds it, there are three padlocks keeping the front doors locked. A cat greets him and encourages him to follow her as she ...more
Dec 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Julie Suzanne
Mar 13, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Take a walk through the Prague of Peter Sis's childhood and learn of some of the folktales/myths with which he grew up.

I'm really getting sucked into Sis's artwork, even though I hated it in The Wall. I don't really know who his intended audience is, besides an adult daughter, but this certainly isn't a children's book. This falls under the "picture books for adults" genre, I'd say (although it's not a graphic novel).

After reading these picture books, I think, "Well, that was interesting." And
Jan 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Peter Sis again tackles the subject of his childhood in Prague (also the subject of The Wall: Life behind the Iron Curtain), but this time focussing more on the positive, on the magical atmosphere that Prague with all its history and winding streets has. Part memories, part fairytale and all magical, it is a fantastic book that for me has more signifigant meaning. I purchased my copy in a little bookshop off of Wenslas square after staying a summer to teach English in Prague. I love seeing the l ...more
Elizabeth Preslar
Jun 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
So fun. Excellent illustrations. This makes me yearn to walk the streets of Prague which was entirely my goal, as I'll be there a week from now! I have a ritual of reading a book set in the city that is my destination when I go on a trip. I have really enjoyed that as it helps solidify things in my mind and makes me feel more excited to travel and more connected. I was disappointed that life's craziness and procrastination didn't allow for me to read a 'book' this time. But this was perfect (and ...more
Dec 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
The illustrations are really intricate, and they're full of cats in some really clever ways.

Part of the problem I had with this book is that it contains three additional picture books within the frame story, which has a weird effect on the pacing. It also makes this a really difficult read-aloud. The three embedded stories were in cursive in the center of one page with small illustrations bordering the page. (The cursive text is split into numbered sentences/phrases/paragraphs, corresponding to
Aug 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: childrens
I hesitate to put this in my children's category, although it is definitely a picture book. It was really cool for me to read, but my pre-schooler would get impatient as I searched the details, or read the story (each of which was long) behind each key. He did enjoy looking for the cat motifs in each page. I would recommend it for older kids.
Jo Oehrlein
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
In my opinion, this is a picture book for adults, not for children.

It contains 3 traditional stories about Prague within a frame story of a dream trip to Prague.

The illustrations are amazingly intricate with lots of detail that isn't always obvious at first. My favorite is the picture of the streets of Prague from above, showing the outline of a cat.
This is a lovely and poetic book for children with longer attention spans. There is much metaphor and imagination to be found on each page, and the story is incredibly captivating. I like that the text is located on the bottom of the page or the side of it, thereby giving more attention to the illustrations. There is so much more in this book than the words describe!
Sep 14, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: folklore
Sis tells the story of a man rediscovering Prague. As he walks the streets, he searches for keys that will open the door to his childhood home. With each key he is reminded of a story associated with the city. I enjoyed this book because I love walking the streets of Prague myself. I'm not sure if I would have been as engaged if I hadn't had that personal connection.
Andrea Perrin
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
As always, the pictures do not disappoint in this work by Peter Sis. What a great idea to write this as a way for his daughter to have something of her culture in Prague. Students could use this as a way to begin thinking about what they might tell their children about their own childhood customs.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
it reminds me of Pamuk's accounts of Istanbul. Interspersed with mysterious imagery and a narrative that whispers the tales of a long-left homeland,this book is an exquisite work of love,longing and things in between...
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an intriguingly deep book, exploring the journey of the author back to his childhood home of Prague. Rich is story and design, I am not sure that this is a book for children. At least not the shallow storied children that I know.
Equal parts Prague travelogue, personal memoir and fairy tale, this is a beautifully whimsical tale that reminds me of the film MirrorMask. Loved the transformation of the city into a giant cat. Clever and captivating. I look forward to visiting Prague one day and discovering it for myself.
This is Peter Sis at his finest, weaving memoir and legends from his childhood in Prague into one glorious picture book. The illustrations are quintessential Sis, gloriously complicated and beautiful.
Kathryn Bergeron
I think that this book is beautiful, but I didn't understand it. It's more like a fairy tale, than a fable. A story of adventure framing the story of a homeland. I think that I struggle with it because I can't define it. What exactly is it? A heartfelt tale of home.
Jul 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: art
this is a lovely, complex book that i'm not intelligent/clever enough to understand
Nov 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-s
Another incredible winner by Peter Sis.
Apr 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
A whimsical picture book about Prague, that children and adults alike will enjoy.
May 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: puerile
The book was surely an adventure! my sister read it to me as a bedtime story this weekend!
Soul Survivor
Nov 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Nice change to read a book in a day , instead of a week ! Sis does a remarkable job of representing his native Prague through Czech legends and amazing illustrations .
Absolutely fantastic. Peter Sis is always good, but this is a masterpiece!
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
beautifully illustrated book about prague (a majestic city!) and being homesick. a feast for the eyes, the mind, and the heart.
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PETER SÍS is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, filmmaker, painter and author. Born in 1949 in Brno, Czechoslovakia, and grew up in Prague. He studied painting and filmmaking at the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and the Royal College of Art in London. His animated work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. He came to America in 1982, and now lives in New York’s Hud ...more