The holidays are just around the bend, whether we’re ready for them or not. I’ve got a copy of such a beautiful and well-designed new collection of fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm that it occurs to me it’d be a lovely gift for either fairy-tale lovers in your life—or those who love illustration.
In my experience, fans of the artwork of Austrian illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger, winner of the 1990 Hans Christian Andersen Medal, are die-hard fans. I mean to tell you they are hard-core about their love for her distinctive style (which over the years, it seems, many other illustrators have attempted to emulate). I am one of those people, in fact. She’s always been one of my top-five favorite illustrators. There are many reasons why, but if forced to pick just one, I’d have to say it’s because of what she chooses to leave out of her illustrations. It’s what she trusts to the imagination of the reader. It’s because she reduces the drama of a moment to its essentials and knows when to back away from the canvas. It’s her subtlety and restraint that impress me.
So, to those of you really devoted Zwerger fans (or even those of you who aren’t), you may be interested in Tales from the Brothers Grimm, a collection of Grimm’s tales which Zwerger selected and illustrated.
What we have here is a new volume of tales. However—and her most ardent fans will already know this—several of the stories here have been previously published in the U.S. as stand-alone picture books. Her illustrations, for one, for the tale “Hansel and Gretel” were published in a 1979 picture book, published by William Morrow and Company and translated by Elizabeth D. Crawford.
It’s included in this new volume, along with others previously published. The difference here is the text, given that these are new translations from Anthea Bell. Bell’s translations are consistently accessible, while managing to retain the vigor of the tales. She never gets in the way of the stories.
Zwerger’s delicate, imaginative illustrations—at turns elegant and eccentric at the same time—demand our attention and carry readers through the volume with a whimsy that never borders on being too precious.
The book also benefits from smart design—high-quality paper, particularly the thick, cream-colored endpages; borders around the text; and (as the official Kirkus review also notes) wide margins around both text and illustrations.
The year 1992 saw the release of Zwerger’s illustrations for a set of tales from Hans Christian Andersen, also translated by Bell. Faithful fans of Zwerger’s illustration work will likely enjoy owning this new collection of Brothers Grimm’s tales—just for placing on the bookshelf alongside Andersen’s.
Maybe this set of tales will even bring Zwerger new fans, a budding generation of steadfast Zwerger-enthusiasts, who will fall in love with her singular style and extraordinary craftsmanship.
TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Lisbeth Zwerger. North American edition published 2013 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd. Hong Kong. Illustration used with permission of publisher.
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.