________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 2. . . .September 11, 2009


Definitely Not for Little Ones: Some Very Grimm Fairy-Tale Comics.

Rotraut Susanne Berner. Translated by Shelley Tanaka.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2009.
48 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
ISBN 978-0-88899-957-3.

Subject Headings:
Fairy tales-Germany.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Todd Kyle.

** /4

Reviewed from f&g's.


Translated from German, Definitely Not for Little Ones is a collection of graphic versions of some of the Grimms' well-known tales ("The Frog Prince") as well as lesser known stories ("Jorinda and Jorindel") by, according to the jacket, one of Germany's most distinguished illustrators.

internal art     Certainly the book is not for little ones, with the tales retaining the violent and cruel details of the originals, told in a modern irreverent and unsubtle style, and often ending with the pithy "and they would still be alive today...if they weren't dead, that is." Talk about putting "and they all lived happily ever after" on its head! The princess turns the Frog Prince into a man by splatting him against a wall in frustration; Rapunzel and her prince sleep together in the tower, and he discovers later he is the father of twins; Little Red Cap and her grandmother are eaten by the wolf and cut out of the sleeping wolf's stomach; then they pack the wolf with stones, sew him up again, and eat wolf steak when he dies.

      But there is something less than satisfying about these stories. With little narration, the text is mostly dialogue, and the witty lines are few and far between. As with much graphic fiction, the story is told more with illustration than with text, but, unlike great graphic fiction, the pictures don't express the dynamism, emotion, and wit that they could, and don't carry the story forward with same power. And the illustration, itself, is almost amateurish in its simplicity, coloured in pencil and with a distorted sense of proportion.

      Still, it is good to see these tales being produced in a form that will entice reluctant readers, and there will definitely be young ones mostly boys (not too young) who will be attracted to the book. Let's just hope that they are not then put off by the awkward style and unappealing graphics.

Recommended with reservations.

Todd Kyle is a public library manager in Mississauga, ON, who has served on the jury of several children's literature awards in both official languages.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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