Images from Janell Cannon's
AGE GUIDES: these are approximate recommendations:
* denotes San Diego writer and/or illustrator
DiTerlizzi, Tony and Holly Black. The Chronicles of Spiderwick: A Grand Tour of the Enchanted World Navigated by Thimbletack. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007.
Edens, Cooper. Tales from the
Brothers Grimm: A Classic Illustrated Edition. San Fransisco:
Chronicle Books, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0-8118-5459-7. ISBN-10: 0-8118-5459-0.
All ages. $19.95.
The title page of this book reads: “Tales from the Brothers Grimm: a Classic Illustrated Edition, compiled by Cooper Edens.” From this information, I expected that the book would contain well-translated versions of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, complete with various artists’ renditions—a truly classic edition, which would be valued by parents, scholars, teachers, librarians, and children alike. Edens does include a nicely diverse collection of fairly well-known stories. This book fails to deliver on its promise, however. The stories contained are not authentic translations of the tales, nor do they all stem from the Grimm tradition. They are actually retellings “in the popular tradition” as Edens briefly mentions in his preface, though he does not clarify what is meant exactly by the term “popular.”
Among other alterations, Edens’ retellings have the effect of changing the original vitality of the tales in such a way that violence, punishments, and the interesting murky moral dilemmas posed by the original tales are overly sanitized and simplified. Unnecessary elements are added while traditional details are lost. In Rapunzel, for example, the wife in the original tale whose long-awaited pregnancy gives her a terrible craving for greens is changed in this version into a woman with a simple greed for food and envy of another’s garden. The trials faced by the young lovers in the original tale (which make their happy ending all the more worthwhile) are discarded and exchanged in an abrupt scene wherein they both immediately get what they want through trickery. What is more confusing than the evident changes in the other tales is Edens’ retelling of Cinderella, which is based more on Charles Perrault’s Cendrillon rather than the Grimms’ Aschenputtel. All the differences wouldn’t matter if the book wasn’t marketed as a compilation of the classic Grimm tales, but as it is, they are disappointing.
There is, however, one real draw to this collection—the variety of classic illustrations which have been brought together. The works of talented artists like Arthur Rackham, Gustave Dore, Edmund Dulac, and Walter Crane are all included, among many other selections. It is a beautiful and interesting array. There is the chance that very young children may be somewhat confused at first by the multiplicity of different portrayals of characters within each story, but a brief explanation ought to clear that up and even brings in the opportunity for readers, old and young, to remember that every interpretation, including those of their own imagination, can be interesting and valuable.
In the end, I would recommend this book for those people interested in having a useful collection that demonstrates a sampling of the variety of classical artistic interpretations of fairy tales. Readers will have to remember, however, that these stories are retellings, rather than authentic translations of the Grimm Brothers’ versions.
Brian Selznick’s Caldecott Award winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret is, as its title suggests, all about invention. While the plot revolves around the mysterious clockwork man which Hugo feels compelled to repair, following his dead clock-maker father’s obsession with its reconstruction, we discover at the end that the entire narrative, and its hundreds of doublespread drawings, have supposedly been created by a creation of Hugo himself, his own automaton. These layers of invention bring us back, of course, to the title whose double-entendre suggests that Hugo Cabret is also an invention—which of course he is—the invention of Brian Selznick, whose story was inspired by the automatons of Georges Méliès.
While this metafictive play with invention certainly catches the sophisticated eye, the book is appealing on many levels and to many ages. Composed primarily of pictures which simulate pencil sketches throughout, offering a predominantly gray texture from the industrious cross-hatching, the work involves only a small percentage of verbal text, itself bordered in a black frame. Words and pictures work together to deepen the mystery while revealing clues which lead to our eventual understanding. With its realistic, detailed drawings of scenes and individuals, its close-ups of gears, wheels, and diagrams, its fantastic, its emotional, and its suggestive images, the book will draw the eye of the adult reader as well as intriguing the young reader with its detail, variety and immediacy.
The introduction by Professor H. Alcofrisbas (an identity assumed, we discover much later, by Hugo himself) sets the time and place, 1931 Paris, and suggests the reader approach the coming action as though watching a movie. The subsequent 21 doublespreads begin with a small image of the moon on a black page, and then, using a perspectival zoom lens, move the focus back and forth to close in on the young Hugo and follow him through the crowds to the station where he lives. The images continue to track him through a vent behind the walls where he hides, and, in a series of montages, reveal his vantage points, and what he sees from his hiding place. In this way, when the first chapter’s six pages of verbal text, broken into pairs and interspersed with more pictures, describe in some detail the boy’s situation, the people with whom he interacts, what he is about, and the first action of the book, the sense of the picture story begins to fall into place, merging graphic and verbal information in a tantalizing and stimulating manner. This innovative book sets new parameters and opportunities for imaginative expression.
The author’s control over the information, offering incomplete clues in the counterpoint of media, teases the reader to learn more, and to follow Hugo’s own quest for information as he solves the mystery of the automaton, the merchant seller whose mechanical toys he steals for his own project, and the girl he befriends to help him uncover the truth of the past, and his own future. The twists and turns of the plot which involve a precious handbook of notes and diagrams, a mysterious key in the shape of a heart, and a journey into early film history, hold the readers’ attention to the end.