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adapted by Rosemary Wells & illustrated by Eleanor Hubbard

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: July 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8037-1850-0
Publisher: Dial

Just as James Marshall could make the oldest of the stories new again, Wells (Bunny Money, 1997, etc.) takes this well-worn nugget and makes it shine. The characters, Ragnar and his wife, Ulla, are cats who live on love and homemade bread in the fjords of Norway. After Ragnar hooks a magical fish, his first wish is for lobster, and they rain down on his boat. Ulla muses that a little larger cooking pot would be useful, and so a peddler delivers it, “already paid for,” and Ulla and Ragnar throw a party for their neighbors. Ulla speculates that a larger kitchen, in a larger house, is required for the cooking pot. And so their wishes mount, until Ulla decides that she needs to become the queen of Norway, a wish the fish can’t grant. The two cats pay a visit to their old neighborhood to cheer themselves, and Ulla sees her mistakes; they move back to their cottage, where the peddler delivers a kitten (also already paid for). Wells not only opens up the story to a younger audience, but imbues it with gentler, more human motives: Ulla isn’t the screeching, greedy shrew of other versions, but a kind cat who succumbs to discontentment. Hubbard’s lovely artwork is evocative, with rich landscapes and costumes, and full of great gestures and expressions. Come story hour, listeners will be cheering. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8)