The Three Billy Goats Gruff: The Full Story by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson

 The Three Billy Goats Gruff: The Full Story by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Katherine Tillotson, Atheneum Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster), 9781481415736, 2020 

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

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Folktale

What did you like about the book?  Three billy goats trip-trap over the bridge again but the folk tale is made new with the recognition that everyone has their own version of the story. Big, Middle and Little Billy Goat see the green grass on the other side of the river and long to cross the bridge, guarded by a huge, angry red troll with massive sharp teeth. One by one they confront the bully, with colorful language and text narrating the action. Troll calls Medium BG “a meaty modicum”  but Medium offers up Big, whom he describes as a “meal-worthy mouthful.” The richness of the language is reinforced by the images, so it would be easy even for young listeners to decode the vocabulary. Onomatopoeia exclamations (“Whew!”, “Aeh”, “Uff-da”)  would make this fun for a read aloud. When Troll has finally been dispatched and all the goats make it to the green grass, we are treated to different retellings as the three brave BGs each give their own renditions (with some self-promotion!). 

The illustrations are lovely. Everything is bright and crisp and although the illustrations are fanciful, we have no problem identifying the characters. I think Tillotson is using wax resist with watercolor — the end result resembles old-fashioned woodcuts. The goats are very handsome and the troll is just scary enough, with trees growing out of his back and forehead so that he can easily blend into the landscape. She also has a good eye for action, shifting perspective from closeups to distance shots. Under the dust jacket, the book’s paper cover has a bonus illustration.

Anything you didn’t like about it? No.

To whom would you recommend this book?  This large, colorful re-telling of the classic folktale would be a great option if you have to replace a dog-earred version. Also a good example of telling stories from a variety of perspectives, so this could be a mentor text for a writers’ workshop lesson.

Who should buy this book? Elementary and public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? Picture books or in folk/fairy tales if you separate out your 398.2 collection.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: February 6, 2021

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