Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little Match Girl Week: More Picture Books

Here are some more Little Match Girl picture books. I am sharing reviews culled from several sources. Both Amazon and Barnes and Noble have reviews for different versions under the same title--in other words, reviews for one version listed under ones illustrated by someone else. The clues in the review help, but I have sorted the reviews with their proper editions below.

The first is still in print:

From School Library Journal (this review also includes Lavrey's Little Red Riding Hood:

Gr 1–3—The first retelling is true to the original poignant tale of hunger, cold, and the death of the young girl selling matches on the street. Lavreys's fanciful acrylic paintings soften Andersen's indictment of an indifferent society that allows such poverty and misery to exist. The resignation and calm on the girl's face capture her sadness, as does the artist's palette of soft colors. Bright colors, collage elements, and whimsical landscapes suit Little Red Riding Hood. The girl's coat is a collage of faint words, and she follows a path strewn with vowels through the sun-lit woods. A sinister wolf is coiled around a slanting tree and distracts the child long enough for him to arrive first at Grandma's cottage. This springtime version makes an interesting contrast to Jerry Pinkney's Little Red Riding Hood (Little, Brown, 2007), which takes place in winter. Lavreys's fanciful folk art expands the way young readers and listeners will see this familiar tale.—Mary Jean Smith, Southside Elementary School, Lebanon, TN

Lavreys is busily illutsrating more fairy tales, too, with her recent Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and forthcoming Cinderella.

This is another one of my favorite versions of the tale in picture book format and was referenced in the review for Lavreys's version above. It's still available in paperback but only used in hardcover. Here is Jerry Pinkney's Little Match Girl.

Jerry Pinkney is a much honored children's book illustrated and has started a mini-dynasty as the father of Brian Pinkney, another great illustrator.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Pinkney's deeply moving treatment of Andersen's classic tale moves the events to an urban America of the 1920s. On a freezing New Year's Eve, a girl stumbles outside in her stocking feet to try and sell matches. The jovial holiday crowd hustles by her; she is afraid to go home, where her father will beat her. To keep herself warm she lights her matches, and each blazes in a dream of holiday happiness. Her last vision is that of her kind grandmother, whom the child joins in a place beyond the reach of cold and poverty. On the last page, two shooting stars are shown blazing across the dark New Year's sky. Pinkney's detailed watercolors bring to life this cold winter night, and profusion of food and gifts just out of the girl's reach. Flecks of snow tumble across the outdoor scenes, and warm yellow candlelight make indoor settings look especially cozy. Pinkney's sense of pacing is also just right; readers will be captivated by the intimacy and drama his illustrations create. The result is so affecting that some will believe they're encountering this story for the very first time.

This final book is out of print and definitely one of the most avant garde of any fairy tale picture book retelling with its innovative illustrations by Kveta Pacovska with text retold by Anthea Bell (a prolific author of fairy tale picture books):

Publishers Weekly Review:

Bell (The Little Mermaid) renders Andersen's story with painful vividness, resisting the urge to draw attention to her own prose. Instead Pacovsk 's stark expressionist plates dominate the pages. An eminence grise among European illustrators, she fully exploits the media in which she works. Collages overlaid with pastel and felt-tip pen, printed on heavy, glossy stock, represent elements of the Little Match Girl's story. Her life unfolds as bold red-scribbling, terrifying chaos. Her frozen feet are white lines on black, while smaller drawings experiment with other deceptively simple ways of drawing feet and matches. A little red "WHoosh!" taped into a narrow gap between blocky, steel-gray apartment buildings indicates where she sits; later, a shooting star foretells her death. The star falls across a full-bleed spread, its path on the left page stenciled into shiny silver foil, like a lake or a mirror; the right-hand page depicts a series of pastel smudges arranged in a grid that seem to stand for the tears and dirt on the Little Match Girl's face, but also resemble an artist's palette. With smaller fragments of silver, the star strikes the heroine. Every page contains a similar shock, a moment of alienation, and yet viewers will likely feel the rightness of these images for one of Andersen's most disturbing stories. This rendering will be best suited to those who know the tale well and can appreciate this intellectual, abstract presentation. All ages.

Review from School Library Journal:

Grade 1-4–An internationally renowned Czech artist brings her avant-garde perspective to Andersen's timeless fable. Pacovsk√°'s playful art is challenging and experimental, featuring childish scrawls, bright smudges of color along with silver inlays, and whimsically amorphous figures. One illustration depicts the girl's eyes, nose, and cupped hands scribbled across what appears to be a financial balance sheet. One spread consists of squares of color smudges facing a shiny silver page on which readers find their own reflection. The two pages are linked by a multicolored paintbrush/matchstick form. The image of the matchstick recurs throughout in all colors and shapes, singly or in groups, some leaning at angles, some resembling picket fences. Though the art challenges, it is appropriately childlike and whimsical, and opens this classic tale to new interpretations. Thoughtful students of folktale will welcome Pacovsk√°'s brilliantly innovative vision.–Marilyn Taniguchi, Beverly Hills Public Library, CA

Review from Booklist:

Gr. 2-4. This striking picture book, with its smooth, able translation, presents Andersen's story of the little girl who stands out in the bitter cold on New Year's Eve, hoping to sell matches. When no one buys them, she lights her matches and sees beautiful visions in their flames. The next morning, she is found dead. Many illustrators have presented idealized visions of the match girl, which tend to sentimentalize her story, but Pacovska takes a different approach. Winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration in 1992, the artist doesn't depict the tale realistically or emphasize its pathos; instead, she offers expressive and sometimes expressionistic pictures. Even the placement of story and illustration is unusual. The entire text appears on five pages, interspersed among 12 full- and double-page illustrations. Featuring bold colors in mixed media, silver foil elements, and cut-paper collages, the striking artwork is naive in style but sophisticated in design. Often abstract and sometimes puzzling (a giant's body with a bird's head clutching a fork), Pacovska's highly original illustrations leave plenty of space for interpretation and imagination, especially for art students. Carolyn Phelan

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