Charles Perrault,
translated by Althea Bell,
illustrated by Giuliano Lunelli
Puss in Boots
North-South Books, 1999

Puss in Boots is a popular and well-known fairy tale, but like many other folk and fairy tales, it has elements that are sometimes either a bit strong for the youngest listener or else goes over the child's head. The challenge is to produce something that retains the essence of the tale and the richness of the language without watering it down into something insubstantial and bland. It is important to demonstrate respect for both the child and the story.

This edition of Puss in Boots does both. The translation by Althea Bell narrates the story in an unembellished way, but weaves in tiny details which enliven and enhance the story. The feisty feline asks the miller's son for some boots, loads a sack with carrots and cabbage and sets off to snare a rabbit -- and by extension, a princess and a kingdom. Bell changes the ogre to a magician in this version, a choice with a potential for a much less frightening depiction.

Overall, Giuliano Lunelli's illustrations are sunny and appealing. His use of light and shadow to highlight objects adds an interesting dimension to the pictures as he highlights the softly depicted backgrounds with splashes of color. Using warm bright colors, he makes the pictures nonthreatening, but they are anything but bland.

If you're looking for a version of Puss in Boots with wide appeal, this is a good pick.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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