Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest written and illustrated by Ole Könnecke, translated by Shelley Tanaka

Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest written and illustrated by Ole Könnecke, translated by Shelley Tanaka. Gecko Press, 2021. 9781776573950

Format: Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or Starred review)  4

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Fantasy

What did you like about the book? Könnecke’s fairy tale recounts the birthday adventures of Dulcinea, a pale pink child who lives at the edge of an enchanted forest; when a witch’s spell turns her loving father into a loving but father-shaped tree (“[s]he knew him at once by his hat, his moustache, and his gentle brown eyes”), Dulcinea ventures into the forest to find the witch and reverse the curse. Across fifty-nine story pages, the tale is divided into six chapters and an epilogue. Reaching a bit beyond picture book length, Dulcinea in the Forbidden Forest is probably suitable for leveled reader shelves: many lines are broken at a point of syntactic completeness, and the type, if not staggeringly large, is set at a more or less reasonable size for emerging readers. Shelley Tanaka’s translation is fine work, without the least moment of awkwardness.

Könnecke’s mischievous and inventive touch is evident in the text, where droll descriptions abound (“The witch sighed. She had always found young children exhausting”; “The woodcutter had seen a thing or two in his lifetime”), while just how Dulcinea outwits the witch makes for a novel twist on the monstrous compulsion to count. Still, Könnecke shines most of all in his illustrations (for which he is chiefly known.) Denizens of the enchanted forest include a flying shark, a stork who walks with a cane, and a moose wearing sunglasses, while in the moat of the witch’s castle lives an alligator built like an hippopotamus, and a giant squid with a hogshead and the horns of an impala. The illustrations are rendered in black outline work, water-colored in shades of ferruginous red, which lightens to a blush pink, and darkens from rusty grey-brown to pure black. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? Entirely charming.

To whom would you recommend this book? Elementary school and public library collections.

Who should buy this book? Librarians; early elementary teachers; parents and caregivers.

Where would you shelve it? Early/Emerging/Leveled Readers OR picture books. 

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

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Zeb Wimsatt, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, MA

Date of review: 27 July 2021

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