MOTHER HOLLY by John Warren Stewig


A Grimm Tale
adapted by & illustrated by
Age Range: 7 - 10
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A spirited and re-imagined retelling of a lesser-known tale by the Brothers Grimm. Rose and her stepsister, Blanche, are as different as their names: Rose is sweet and gentle and works hard; Blanche is lazy and cranky. When Rose loses her spindle in the well, her stepmother insists she go after it. But she wakes in a different world on the other side of the well. There she rescues bread from being burnt in the oven; she shakes an apple tree overladen with fruit; and she milks a cow in dire need of milking. Arriving at a cottage, she is welcomed by a woman named Mother Holly who has frighteningly large teeth. But she works for Mother Holly, shaking the quilts whose down makes snow on earth and finding her kind and good. When Rose returns home, Blanche envies the golden treasures she brings with her. Leaping into the well, she fails to repeat Rose’s kind acts and when she comes home she is covered in briars, not gold. In a departure from the original ending, goodhearted Rose goes back down the well with Blanche, where Blanche learns to work and not to complain, and both girls are covered in gold and glory at the end. Though the telling is often awkward and stiff (the idea of the large teeth is never really explained except in the adaptor’s note), the illustrations carry the day. They are rich in naturalistic detail, from kittens and roses to bones long buried in the earth. Westerman (Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, 1995, etc.) wields color like a magic wand, making well water translucent, peacock feathers iridescent, and the heavy silk of Rose’s blue gown palpable. (Folktale. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-55858-926-0
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: NorthSouth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2001


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