A satisfying retelling of eight Polish tales, paired with bold multicolor paper cuttings that employ traditional and modern motifs.
The reteller-illustrator team has worked together before, but this time, the stories are from Pienkowski’s own home country, and Walser has combined his own research with the illustrator’s memories of childhood storytellers and his informal translations of tale variants. The reteller has made some additions, and no written sources are listed. The stories are lively and accessible, but several have dark underpinnings. “The Fern Flower” shows the evil side of humanity as Bogdan seeks to keep his magically found wealth to himself, even though he loses his mother and his dog because of his greed. Other tales include elements of stories known across cultures. “The Frog Bride” resembles “The Frog Prince,” but it also introduces Baba Jaga, similar to the Russian witch. The prince is told to destroy the frog skin of his princess so that she cannot return to her animal state, just as in the Celtic selkie stories or the Japanese crane wife tales. Walser invents a grandson for “The Trumpeter of Kraków,” the national tale of salvation, and this interpolation works. The sometimes-whimsical illustrations use silhouettes and collage and exhibit a range of clothing styles. The animals, both real and mythical, are especially effective.
For the more sophisticated folk- and fairy-tale reader. (reteller’s foreword, illustrator’s note, glossary) (Folk tales. 8-11)