Superheroes are not an invention of American comic books, as is amply proven by this not-so-well-known tale from Grimm. Only with superhuman help can a prince accomplish the surprisingly difficult task of leaving home and marrying. After a seven-year illness caused by his father's disapproval, the prince sets off to woo a beautiful princess who is guarded by her wicked sorceress mother. Along the way, he meets a man who can hear everything, even the grass growing; a fellow who can stretch himself to the height of a mountain; and four other remarkable parties. When the princess's evil mother sets him impossible tasks, he fulfills them, helped by the six. But only he can truly win the princess's heart, in a misogynist final episode in which he breaks her pride. This is strong stuff, and in translating the lengthy text, Bell takes no interpretive liberties. Goloshapov shrewdly creates a gallery of grotesques instead of following the action. He concentrates on the enormous mouth of the fat man as he swallows 300 oxen and 300 barrels of wine, or on the tall man's legs stretching across two pages; the exaggerated figures are well served by the unusually tall and narrow format. Executed in watercolor, gouache and ink on black paper, these sophisticated illustrations emphasize the darkness of the themes and capitalize on the story's strangeness. Ages 5-8. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996 Release date: 04/01/1996 Genre: Children's
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