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From the Monster Stories series, volume 1

retold by Fran Parnell & illustrated by Sophie Fatus

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-84686-562-6
Publisher: Barefoot

The first of four books that comprise a new series of folktales for emerging readers.

Readers familiar with The Barefoot Book of Monsters will know these stories, though the tales are off the beaten track for most casual readers. Abridged from the 2003 collection, these new paperback volumes are for newly independent readers, with simpler language, ample font, plenty of bright acrylic illustrations and even a very easy speech bubble here and there to help children along. In this inaugural volume, the ailing king learns that "[o]nly a magic feather from the ogre's back can cure" him, so he offers a reward—his youngest daughter's hand in marriage and half the kingdom—to whoever brings him the magic feather. In the great commoner-makes-good tradition, gardener Pirolo sets off on the quest (despite his distaste for the Princess). With a little assistance and some trickery, he succeeds, in an adventure that emphasizes laughs over chills. Other books in the series include The Mother of Monsters, The Abominable Snowman and The Terrible Chenoo. Because each story has the same style of illustration, it’s hard to visually differentiate the settings—the people all look the same except for their skin tone. Luckily, each monster is quite different from the others, and it’s the monsters that will captivate the attention. Though the copyright page holds some information about the origins of the particular stories, more complete backmatter would have helped place these lesser-known tales in better context for these new readers who will be meeting these beasts for the first time. A short bibliography of related stories would also have added much to this repackaging.

Still, for beginning readers yearning for fantastic alternatives in their reading fare, these will hit the spot. (Early reader/folktale. 5-8)