CM . . .
. Volume XIX Number 16. . . .December 21, 2012
It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what the plot is in Hlobil's Fairy Tales of Our Grandmothers as it twists and turns, developing ever more stories within stories, introducing characters by the dozens, and distracting the reader with histories and spiritual statements. The basic outline involves three princesses (cousins Anat, Slava, and Elene) who get lost in the forest and awaken in separate worlds where they learn truths and ideas about the universe. There are multiple settings, most of which are based in nature, and the overall style is fantastical and spiritual.
Obviously drawn from a rich oral tradition, Hlobil's beautiful tales get lost in the written format. The many charactersódrawn from myriad different myths and creation storiesóbecome difficult to remember and make such short cameos as to seem flat and uninteresting. There is an overarching religious agenda to this book, however, and the tone goes from whimsical, to textbook (as in the chapter dedicated to bees), to preaching, never fully settling into a consistent voice. While the idea of the book is wonderful, and there is always an interest in fairy tales, fantasy, and magic, the actual product does not deliver on its promise.
The story is not the only disappointment of this book: the format is rife with issues. It is a hardcover story book, but the language and complexity of the story makes it difficult to pinpoint an age range. It is too long to read in one sitting, too confusing to read aloud to a young child in sections, and yet it is not in a format that a 10 or 11-year-old, now interested in "chapter books", would like to carry around. The illustrations are vivid, colourful representations by J.P. Krasny, but are unfortunately not a style that is very popular, and do not completely complement the book. The images are sometimes just thrown in the middle of a passage, disrupting the flow of the thought without adding any value. Add to this the regular grammatical errors, and this book misses the mark entirely for its intended audience.
Amber Allen is a librarian in Toronto, ON, who fills every crack of her spare time with children's literature.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.