THE LITTLE JESTER by Helena Olofsson

THE LITTLE JESTER

adapted by , illustrated by , translated by
Age Range: 5 - 7

KIRKUS REVIEW

The author retells a French legend of the juggler who performs his tricks for the Madonna. In Olofsson’s version, he asks for a meal at a monastery. The Abbott reluctantly allows him in with strict orders for the monks to send him on his way as soon as he finishes his meal. But the monks are fascinated by the jester and ask him to perform. He begins his tricks, and by means of his flute, leads the way to the chapel where he jumps on the high altar and proceeds with the show. The Abbott, who has retired to his study, hears the noise and follows it to the chapel. Furious, he admonishes the monks, when one of them points to the revered picture of the Weeping Madonna above the altar. It is a miracle—for the Madonna is smiling. The Abbott realizes he was wrong and asks the jester to name a favor. The jester asks that anyone who asks for shelter or a meal at the monastery should be welcome, and so it happens. The jester becomes famous as everyone recognizes him for the jester who made the Weeping Madonna smile. The illustrations are stylized to evoke the design of medieval manuscripts and the red, blue, green, and soft yellow colors heighten the effect. The type seems to be handwritten and at times is difficult to read. Interestingly, the illustrations are also reminiscent of the cartoon drawings of Louis Slobodkin. The story is told in an awkward manner with stilted phrases that interrupt the smoothness of the text. There are no notes to identify this as a story based on a French legend. The Little Juggler, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (o.p.), is closest to this version, but her illustrations are more distinguished and she includes a note on the origin of the tale. The Clown of God, by Tomie dePaola (1978), also acknowledges this as a French legend, and in a foreword says that this was the original title by which the tale was known. DePaola’s and Cooney’s versions portray the juggler as a person devoted to the Madonna and he performs his tricks to give honor to her. Perhaps this version, with its emphasis more on generosity than adoration will appeal to a wider audience. (Picture book/folktale. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 5th, 2002
ISBN: 91-29-65499-8
Page count: 28pp
Publisher: R&S/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2002




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