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The Brothers Grimm: The Bremen Town Musicians, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger

This book begins to capture the reader with a classic layout: framed text on a white background on the left page, and white-framed illustrations on the right page. This gives the book the feel of a family favorite that has been passed down through the generations, just as this story itself has been. The animals, as ever, have all outlived their usefulness and are running away from home in order to avoid being killed. The subdued, sophisticated watercolor illustrations perfectly capture their elderly worldweariness (the dog's mournful eyes are enough to make you tear up) and temper the gravity of their situations. Realistic depictions are juxtaposed with imaginative vignettes: illustrated mathematical equations depict the story each animal tells above a portrait of the animal (I really cannot do these justice - you've got to see them). When the scene turns to night and the robbers' house, the page background turns to black with text the color of lamplight through a window. This provides an ideal backdrop for the comical revelry of the robbers' feast. The scene in which one robber goes back to the now quiet house to investigate is illustrated in silhouettes of grey, aptly conveying the shadowy, mysterious, and seemingly dangerous scene he encounters. The "monsters" he then describes to his fellows are illustrated with grey bodies and red, boxy faces featuring grinning gridlike mouths. These creatures make clear the humor in his misunderstanding of the situation. This familiar story is usually silly and over-the-top, but the gentle illustrations and translation avoid pratfalls, instead opting for a more minimalist, sly, and no less captivating rendering. The illustrations are spare and careful, including nothing superfluous. Check it out from our folktale section.