The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen Translated by Misha Hoekstra. Illustrated by Helen Crawford

  The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Misha Hoekstra. Illustrated by Helen Crawford -White. Pushkin, 2016. 9781782691228

Format: Paperback

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 2

Genre:  Fairy tale

What did you like about the book? This is the classic tale by Hans Christian Andersen, embellished with delicate, whimsical line drawings. In the impossibly complicated story, the princess Elisa must rescue her eleven brothers who have been turned into swans by their evil stepmother. It is very much a 19th century story, with beleaguered men, women who are either evil as sin or innocent as a child, Christian themes, and long drawn out suffering. Also includes a shorter tale, The Nightingale, about a Chinese emperor who prefers a mechanical bird to the live bird imprisoned for his pleasure.

Anything you didn’t like about it? This rendition is problematic for several reasons. One is a slightly awkward translation. Another is one of Elisa’s early trials, when she is punished by the evil Queen by having her skin turned an “ugly, burnt color” of blackish-brown. Sigh. I just wouldn’t want a little brown or black child worrying about this judgement, even though it’s a fairy tale. Maybe a different choice of words would have helped. The drawings are lovely designs, but all slightly off the mark of the text.

To whom would you recommend this book?  I wouldn’t recommend this for purchase for children’s collections.

Who should buy this book? Special libraries which have special collections of fairy tales

Where would you shelve it ? 398.2

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: April 4, 2017

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