Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bearskinner: a Tale of the Brothers Grimm

THE BEARSKINNER: A TALE OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM; retold (beautifully) by Laura Amy Schlitz (this year's Newbery winner), and illustrated by Max Grafe; Cambridge, MA:
Candlewick, 2007; unpaged.

A soldier back from the wars with no work to do and nowhere to go, meets the devil in a dark wood. Satan offers him an unending supply of gold if he will enter into this bargain: shoot and
kill a bear, skin him, wear the pelt for seven years without praying, washing, cutting his nails, or killing himself, because suicide would deliver his soul to the devil. At first the soldier fares well enough, but as the years wear on, he wishes to die and comes to the brink of throwing himself into a river, but sees a mother and child in need, and discovers a reason to live--giving his gold to feed the poor. Laura Amy Schlitz's retelling is spare and piercing; Max Grafe's pictures are filled with the darkness of evil choices and despair, and the golden light of redemption. Lovely!

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