Books by Charles Mikolaycak

THE HERO OF BREMEN by Margaret Hodges
Released: Oct. 15, 1993

An agreeable German tale of avarice vanquished and true heroism, based—according to Hodges's excellent note—on a 19th- century text. Hans the shoemaker is known for his careful work and the stories he tells children about the heroic Roland, revered for making Bremen a free city. Now it's also a crowded one, and its people are negotiating for space outside the walls. A tax has been collected to pay for it, but old Countess Emma's wily nephew (and heir) makes a generous-sounding offer: they may have, free, ``all the land that a man can walk around in a day.'' The burghers agree, and (in accordance with the bargain) the nephew chooses Hans as the walker—a cruel trick, since he can progress only on ``knuckles and knees.'' Still, he does his best over rough pasture and bog, accompanied only by his beloved children and, in the end, by Roland himself, who appears to help him on his way. The late Mikolaycak's carefully structured illustrations—though still animated by close-ups and unusual perspectives—are less starkly dramatic than much of his work; tenderness prevails here, and it well befits a poignant, gracefully retold tale that's a natural for storytelling. (Folklore/Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >
ORPHEUS by Charles Mikolaycak
Released: Oct. 1, 1992

A full retelling of the Greek myth about the gifted young musician who seeks to reclaim the bride snatched from him by a tragically early death. Moved by his enchanting songs, the Underworld's king and queen allow him to take Eurydice, but only if he doesn't look back to see whether she's following. Mikolaycak has it that it's an error, not impatience, that causes Orpheus to look back too soon; and he depicts the frenzied mob that kills him as angered by his refusal to play for them—not, as some versions have it, as Thracian women in the throes of a Dionysian rite. The narrative here is workmanlike, concluded by a fine note on sources, variants, themes, and the myth's portrayal by musicians, poets, and other artists; but it's Mikolaycak's stunning illustrations that take pride of place. Heroic nudes, classic in their conformation but rendered in warm flesh tones, dominate his dramatic compositions, their gracefully tousled black hair echoed by the stark framing ground on which the text appears in white. The blood attending the hero's death and dismemberment is shocking but not sensational, effectively conveying the myth's emotional power. An outstandingly handsome piece of bookmaking; not, obviously, for little children. Bibliography; discography. (Nonfiction/Picture book. 12+) Read full book review >
BEARHEAD by Eric A. Kimmel
Released: Sept. 15, 1991

Kimmel states that he has adapted ``Ivanko the Bear's Son'' by giving the protagonist a bear's head on a man's body rather than the reverse, and by having him outwit a witch instead of his stepfather. Obviously, these changes substantially alter the story's inner meaning,but Kimmel's version is an amusing tale of an apparent bumbler who repeatedly triumphs by taking instructions literally. Bearhead takes his father's place when he's summoned to be the witch's servant, soon so discombobulating her household (e.g., when she asks him to clear the table, he throws it out the window) that she tries to get rid of him by sending him off to a goblin; a clever ruse saves him and results in vast wealth. Mikolaycak's beautiful illustrations are notable for their skillful, dramatic compositions; firmly enclosed on three sides, they open on a fourth to allow a pleasing accommodation of the textan innovative, very satisfactory design. Enriched by old-world Russian detail, they depict a sturdy, charming hero, an intriguing frog/sea-monster goblin who's more debonair than appalling, and an oddly vulnerable- looking witch. A satisfying story in a handsome setting. (Picture book. 4-10) Read full book review >