Provocative observations on the uses (and misuses) of ``classic'' fairy tales are overwhelmed by academic jargon in this oddly disjointed and disappointing study from Tatar (German Literature/Harvard). Expanding on her The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales (1987), Tatar examines the transformation of often ribald adult folk-tale prototypes into sometimes horrifyingly violent children's stories rooted in the assumptions and realities of a particular social context. At the time when such well-known collectors as the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Andersen were combining folk legends with the children's literary conventions of ``cautionary'' and ``exemplary'' stories, Tatar says, infant death, abandonment by parents, and starvation were not uncommon. Today, Tatar advises, these ``cruel'' and ``sadistic'' tales, anachronistic at best, with heroines earning redemption through ``a servile attitude'' and obedience, should yield to ``a creative folklore...reinvented by each generation of storytellers and reinvested with creative social energy.'' The author fails to elaborate on this point, however, with more than sketchy suggestions about discussing stories with children. Tatar does provide a neat common-sensical corrective to the interpretive inversions of Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment (1976), in which child victims become psychologically muddled villains (the starving Hansel and Gretel, Tatar points out, have reasons to devour the witch's house far more compelling than Bettelheim's ``uncontrolled cravings''). The author also offers an interesting dissection of the pervasive sexism of many fairy tales (why all the female villains?). The dreary monograph form of much of the book never quite gels, unfortunately, with Tatar's practical, if undeveloped, popular exhortations. (Thirty illustrations—some seen.)

Pub Date: May 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-691-06943-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1992

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?



An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet