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For the purposes of the story, we'll accept that the old bookseller is wise because he has read so many books, and that because he is thus wise all the villagers seek and follow his advice. We begin, then, with the old man going deaf and giving ridiculous advice because he mishears his customers' requests. A young man about to be married wants advice on how to be a groom and gets a housekeeping book because it tells about brooms. A woman requesting a cookbook because her husband can't eat her terrible cooking gets medicine for the supposedly sick husband. And a mother whose daughters fight like cats and dogs is told to give one of them away (the cat or the dog, as the bookseller understands her case). How does it all turn out? A little too painlessly. The bookseller's granddaughter, overhearing, sets him straight. But when he goes round to remedy the bad advice, he's thanked because it all worked out okay as is. (The daughters, temporarily separated, missed each other so that now they get along like doves.) The story comes across as a well-made but synthetic yarn--with neither the comical disastrous consequences nor the wit or wisdom of a real folk tale. The brown-toned pictures, with their static figures posed against stylishly rustic 18th-century sets, also serve but fail to connect.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1982
Publisher: Viking