Writer: Angela McAllister (illustrated by Madalina Andronic)
Publishing House: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Date of Publication: September 3rd 2019
Rating: 5 stars
Confession time. Once August knocks on our door and long before my summer holidays are completed, I begin to think of Halloween reads, Halloween decorations, Halloween films and pretty much Halloween everything. This beautiful volume is a perfect addition to the autumnal festive atmosphere (and yes, I am hasty and weird…) of the most wonderful time of the year and an exciting choice for the fairytales/myths aficionado.
Tales of the woods and the water. Enchanted places, farms and fields, oceans and frozen lands. Stories of spirits, graveyards and the strangers at the door, from every corner of the world. Absolutely beautiful illustrations by Mandalina Andronic. They reminded me of the decorative pictures found in Medieval manuscripts and made the book a pure joy to read.
The reader finds classics like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Rumpelstiltskin from Germany, Vasilissa the Beautiful from Russia, the Scottish tale of Tam Lin and the Elf Queen, the Seal Wife, Sir Gawain, and the Green Knight. But the real treasure of this collection lies in lesser-known gems a few of which I’ve chosen to present you:
Yara: A spirit of the forest lures young men on the eve of their wedding. A tale from Brazil.
The Cold Lady: A sad wintry tale from Japan.
Morag and the White Horse from Scotland.
The Dance of Death: A tale of a young girl’s foolishness from Canada.
The Water Witch: A French tale of transformations and the intelligence of a brave girl.
The Enchanted Apple Tree: A tale from Flanders. An old lady called Misery, who tricked Death, bargained with him and gained immortality. If you’ve ever wondered why there is still such an awful misery in the world, you’ll find one of the answers in this tale.
The Blacksmith and the Devil: ‘’If I respect God, I ought to respect the Devil too’’, said an old blacksmith. But his son had a different idea…A very interesting tale from Russia.
The Blind Man and the Demons, an eerie tale from Korea.
Old Nick and the Girl: A battle of dances, running races and wits, from Norway.
Herne the Hunter, a haunting tale from England.
Counting Out the Bodies: A funny tale of misunderstandings from Bermuda.
The Giantess and the Stone Boat, an Icelandic tale of an unfortunate queen.
Esteban and the Ghost, a humorous tale from Spain.
The Old Ogre: The story of a brave mother from Tibet.
These are only a handful of the beautiful tales, legends and didactic myths included in the collection. My only gripe is that I would have loved to see tales from the Balkans. Greece, Serbia, and Romania have given birth to some of the darkest tales and yet the Balkan region was totally overlooked…
Angela McAllister has included a handy Sources section and overall, she has done a marvelous job. Many of the stories don’t have a traditional happy ending and I loved that. Life itself isn’t a particular friend of happy closures, after all. Having said that, I am not certain that young children will be able to fully comprehend and appreciate the themes of the stories but middle-graders will definitely adore them. The writing is vivid and not simplified and I intend to use the volume for my classes.
This is a book that is pleasing and special both in terms of writing and aesthetics. A brilliant work by two very talented artists.
Many thanks to Frances Lincoln Children’s Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.