cover image The Gothamites

The Gothamites

Eno Raud, trans. from the Estonian by Adam Cullen, illus. by Priit Pärn. Elsewhere Editions, $18 (44p) ISBN 978-1-939810-28-1

Famed Estonian children’s writer Raud first published his retelling of these traditional folktales decades ago; this edition offers new illustrations by his countryman, cartoonist Pärn. The first of the 11 stories, all serviceably translated by Cullen, explains that the men of Gotham, originally wise, were always away advising foreign rulers. They then vow to become foolish so they can stay at home. In the stories that follow, they try trapping heat from a stove with a rabbit snare, condemn a crayfish to death by drowning, and many other equally idiotic endeavors. Slapstick-style dialogue runs heavily to random shouts and epithets: “Fire and faraday!... Oh, you scamps and vagabonds!” Readers may find laughs in Pärn’s manic, outsider-art-style spreads, but it’s dark laughter. Multitudes of tiny, lumpy Gothamites dance, gesticulate, and simply stand gaping, like Where’s Waldo? crowds that have lost the power of reason. The same characters appear again and again: one parachutes off roofs with an open umbrella; another battles an overcoat as if it were a living thing. An unusual take on traditional tales. Ages 5–8. [em](June) [/em]