We’d very much enjoyed Nursery Rhyme Comics when we got it, so of course we wanted this one as well. We had to wait for several months, as the readers before us in line apparently liked it too much to bring it back on time. It was worth the wait!
Fairy Tale Comics edited by Chris Duffy. First Second, 2013.
This is a collection of fairy tales, each done by a different renowned graphic novel artist or illustrator, including lots of familiar names: Raina Telgemeier of Smile; Vanessa Davis, familiar to me for her adult memoirs in graphic form; Jillian Tamaki of Skim and This One Summer; Craig Thompson of Blankets; Brett Helquist of the Series of Unfortunate Events; the Hernandez brothers of the Love and Rockets series; and many, many more. It’s a relatively short book, so I wasn’t surprised that the fairy tales are given treatments meant to fit in. Stories that usually involve three trials or nights are cut down to one, and so on. I was pleased to see a nice assortment of tales, including standards such as “Rapunzel”, “Snow White”, “Puss in Boots” and “Rumplestiltskin”, as well as less familiar stories like “The Prince and the Tortoise”, “The Boy Who Drew Cats”, and “Azzolino’s Story Without End.” Having so many artists, all with very different styles, makes each story stand out in its own way, from the scratchy informality of Charise Mericle Harper’s “The Small-Toothed Dog” to the classic Sunday serial style of Ramona Fradon’s “The Prince and the Tortoise” and the lovely Russian folk art look of Jillian Tamaki’s “Baba Yaga”.
My daughter’s favorite was Raina Telgemeier’s “Rapunzel”, which she wanted read to her at least once a day for six weeks, and just took it home from the library again the last time we were there. Telgemeier puts a lot of her signature humor into the story, from the list of other obscure foods that the man has already gotten to satisfy his wife’s cravings, to the small detail of the prince’s tongue sticking out with the effort of climbing up Rapunzel’s hair. But she’s also altered the ending (somewhat reminiscent of Rapunzel’s Revenge) in a way that makes Rapunzel much less passive than she’s typically shown. My son loved Emily Carroll’s The Twelve Dancing Princesses, done in misty watercolors, and accomplishing the tricky task of telling a story in pictures including an invisible character very well. Really, every one of these stories was its own small delight worth discussing, but as that would go on for a very long time, I’ll just say that we enjoyed this very much.
One of the nice things about this way of the telling the stories is that while some of the stories are too scary for preschoolers (or at least mine), it’s usually really clear from the illustration style right at the beginning, so that it was very easy to skip to the next story. Everything looked fine for elementary school and up, though, with nothing sexual and just a couple of spooky stories. As a lover of fairy tales, I still want my children exposed to fairy tales in lots of other formats. We read them as picture books and lavishly illustrated anthologies, and I have my ereader well stocked with the colored fairy books, unillustrated, from Project Gutenberg, to read to the kids when we’re stuck waiting places. I can’t say that this would be good as a child’s only introduction to fairy tales. But as part of a good education in traditional stories, especially for children who love graphic story-telling as mine do – this is really top-notch.