THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN by Mercer--Adapt. & Illus. Mayer


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The Browning version of this popular legend, with Greenaway's delightful illustrations, is still in print, but since its difficult text has awkward phrases as well as memorable lines, there is a need for a retelling. Mayer closely follows the events and descriptions in Browning's poem, from the red-and-yellow cloak of the piper to the grasping medieval burghers. His only major deviation occurs at the end, where he has the piper heal the lame boy and send him forth to tell the story; Browning leaves him behind, still limping, yearning to follow his playmates--which seems more likely. The text will serve: the traditional details are intrinsically interesting; the style is clear but lacks distinction. The illustrations vividly evoke the events; Mayer's draftsmanship tells a lively story, and his effects are detailed and dramatic. There are few secrets about Hamelin after he's delineated it. The more gruesome characters and red-eyed, outsize rats will have their appeal. The Lippincott edition, which originated (like the story) in Germany, is a more distinguished production in every respect. Its relaxed prose, with humorous touches of realism, would be perfect for storytelling or reading aloud. The illustrations borrow enough from medieval art to convey the flavor of the legend's origins, but are lively with modern devices: the flee use of perspective to heighten the drama; vivid color contrasts, such as playing the piper's red. orange costume against deep blues and turquoise. Fuchshuber's piper is sly but benign, her townsmen self-serving but not evil, her rats ugly but not sensational, her compositions well organized and consistently interesting. Both of these are acceptable, but if funds allow for only one, the superior Bartos-Hoppner edition would certainly be first choice.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1987
Page count: 40pp
Publisher: Macmillan