Lots of books cross my desk on a weekly basis. This year, there have been many story collections or collections of newly illustrated famous tales of one sort or another, so I thought today I’d discuss a small handful of them.
First up, just this month readers can see Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows with new illustrations from British illustrator David Roberts. First published last year in Great Britain, the only change made here with Grahame’s text is the omission of the chapter titled “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” which, as the Kirkus review notes, will only upset purists. Readers first meeting the story in this new edition simply won’t notice a hiccough in the action.
Roberts provides spot illustrations, as well as occasional full-page spreads. There’s a lot of humor in his offbeat artwork, and he does a fine job of conveying the warmth and coziness of the worlds within the legendary riverbank and Wild Wood of the novel. His palette is cool, filled with a lot of greens and blues, with some appearances from cheery reds and yellows to balance it all out. It’s a well-designed book (not surprising, coming from Candlewick as it does), and it would lend itself well to a parent-child one-on-one reading, especially as an introduction to the famous tale.
In 2011, editor Chris Duffy released Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes by 50 Celebrated Cartoonists, which Kirkus gave a starred review and which was nominated for a 2012 Eisner Award in the categories of Best Publication for Early Readers and Best Anthology. Duffy is back with Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists, arriving on bookshelves just this week. There are 17 tales on display here, reimagined as comics and rendered in wildly different styles from cartoonists and illustrators, such as Brett Helquist, Charise Mericle Harper, Gilbert Hernandez, Luke Pearson and many more. The comics range from well-known tales (“Rumpelstiltskin,” “Baba Yaga”) to those not as familiar to the average reader (a story based on “The King and His Storyteller” by Petrus Alphonsi). Duffy explains in a closing Editor’s Note how he set out to include a mix of Grimm tales, well-known stories, non-European tales, and both girl and boy heroines. (He’s smart, that Chris Duffy.) It’s a bright and lively romp, this collection of stories for comics-lovers of all ages.
If Rudyard Kipling is more your style, you’ll want to find a copy of Just So Stories: Volume I, illustrated by the award-winning artist Ian Wallace. This is a new release from Groundwood Books including six of the famous pourquoi literary tales from Kipling. In an intriguing and lengthy Illustrator’s Note, Wallace describes how he unites the illustrations for each tale in a structural way: “[A]ll the images are the same vertical shape and dimension, with the exception of the three landscape illustrations…and the wrap-around [cover].” His atmospheric and luminescent artwork makes this one a keeper.
(Also of note from Groundwood Books earlier this year is Amazonia: Indigenous Tales from Brazil, stories retold by Daniel Munduruku, translated by Jane Springer and illustrated by Russian artist Nikolai Popov. And, come October, don’t miss Griffin Ondaatje’s The Camel in the Sun, illustrated by Linda Wolfsgruber. Inspired by the retelling of a traditional Muslim hadith, it tells a compelling story of compassion, one the author first learned in Sri Lanka.)
Finally, in Whiskers, Tails & Wings: Animal Folktales from Mexico, released by Charlesbridge last month, author Judy Goldman retells five animal folktales from the Tarahumara, Seri, Huichol, Triqui, and Tseltal peoples of Mexico. Glossaries are included, as well as a bibliography, a list of Web resources, an index and even the tale sources. Goldman kicks it all off with a three-page introduction to the “unique blend of ancient customs and modern ways” of Mexico, “rich with…tales,” explaining that the groups of people highlighted in this collection are indigenous to the country. Fabricio VandenBroeck, who lives in Mexico City, provides the acrylic and watercolor illustrations. It’s a well-organized collection of tales and would make a wonderful addition to school and public libraries.
Whew. Thanks for taking that fast trip around the world with me. I made sure to wave to Rat, Mr. Toad, the Elephant’s Child and Rapunzel on our way past. Hope you did, too. If not, they’re waiting for you here in the pages of these lovely 2013 offerings.
Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children's literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.