Books by Beni Montresor

HANSEL AND GRETEL by Beni Montresor
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Montresor, best known for his Caldecott-winning May I Bring a Friend (1965), uses silhouetted figures set against backdrops of vividly colored cut-paper collages in this retelling of a classic. In keeping with the story, the art is childlike yet bold and dramatic. Would that the text were rendered so well. For the most part, the narrative is flat and the story almost unrecognizable. The children get lost while picking strawberries, fall asleep and dream of angels, and wake to find a castle where at least they meet the witch from the original version. Granted, this is a scary tale, but even though Montresor's version is geared toward the younger set, some details of the plot—along with the accompanying art—have the potential to frighten the smallest readers and listeners. So while there is a big, bright, smiling sun at the end—which looks as if it could have been drawn by a small child—there are also devils and menacing-looking witches and lots of flames issuing from a large vat. Not the best version of this story that ever was, it should be considered supplemental for large library collections and only where yet another retelling is desired. (Folklore. 4-8)Read full book review >
LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD by Charles Perrault
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

In his introduction to this ``beautiful, violent tale,'' Luciano Pavarotti suggests that these illustrations ``will leave you breathless.'' That's an understatement. For many, Perrault's original version will be unfamiliar—it concludes with the wolf eating Red Riding Hood (in this faithful, economical translation, ``devouring'' her). Montresor—an admired set designer as well as a Caldecott medalist (1965)—provides a theatrical setting with elegant architectural forms and a stylized forest in finely detailed black touched with soft color; the dapper, white-suited wolf is an appealingly furry seducer, his victim a blond innocent. The illustrations deliberately refer to DorÇ's famous engravings (1867); two of the most dramatic poses are almost identical to DorÇ, but Montresor carries the tale into the 20th century with his extraordinary final pictures: the wolf swallowing the child as an act of love as well as ferocity; then three textless spreads of Red Riding Hood, unhurt, within the complacent wolf like a child awaiting birth, floating pure on a field of scarlet that recalls her cloak. In the last, the huntsman-savior appears in a pillar of light. Some will be troubled by the terror and sexuality in these brooding, exquisite illustrations; others will respond to their beauty and to the skill with which the artist has revealed the tale's mythic power. Definitely not for preschoolers, but a valid interpretation to fascinate and challenge older readers. (Folklore/Picture book. 7+) Read full book review >