cover image The Pied Piper of Hamelin

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Renate Raecke, trans. from the German by Anthea Bell, illus. by Lisbeth Zwerger. Minedition (IPG, dist.), $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-988-8240-82-1

Zwerger (The Little Mermaid) adds a version of the Pied Piper legend to her list of exquisitely illustrated fairy tales. Unlike other tales collected by the Brothers Grimm, the original bears an alleged date—June 26, 1284—which gives it the air of a historical account. In Bell’s always-graceful translation, Raecke recounts the Hamelin townspeople’s refusal to pay a piper who has magically rid the town of a plague of rats. Seething with resentment, the piper returns, playing a new melody—“The people of Hamelin had never heard anything like that tune before”—and leading the town’s children away forever. Zwerger’s delicate paintings, with their expanses of empty space, speak of absence and mourning. One scene looks over the shoulder of the Pied Piper as he plays his tune for a young child. The piper’s angry scarlet hat dominates the image, and the child in his sights looks as tender and vulnerable as a mouse. One closes the book remembering that the quaint houses and village squares so common to the cozy world of fairy tales are often home to much darkness. Ages 7–9. (Sept.)