Leopold, the Liar of Leipzig

Overview

Every Sunday the people of Leipzig marvel at Leopold's amazing tales about wondrous things — like the green gorilla governor in the galaxy of Gelato and the lizard ladies in the land of Lusitana. For generations everyone has believed his stories were true. That is, until a great scientist and explorer arrives in Leipzig and accuses Leopold of being a liar ..

Celebrated author Francine Prose, winner of the National Jewish Book Award, teams up ...

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Overview

Every Sunday the people of Leipzig marvel at Leopold's amazing tales about wondrous things — like the green gorilla governor in the galaxy of Gelato and the lizard ladies in the land of Lusitana. For generations everyone has believed his stories were true. That is, until a great scientist and explorer arrives in Leipzig and accuses Leopold of being a liar ..

Celebrated author Francine Prose, winner of the National Jewish Book Award, teams up with artist Einav Aviram for this brand-new fable about the magic of storytelling.

After a scientist accuses him of lying, Leopold, who has told tales in Leipzig's zoo for many years, is surprised to find that he must explain the nature of storytelling.

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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
"In the country of Carthaginia cats catch caterpillars and cook them in casseroles in costly cafes." Leopold enthralls a generation of townspeople with his colorful yarns until Doctor Doctor Professor Morgenfresser, a stickler for literal truth, takes him to court over his "lies." Vibrant folk art pictures (with some delightfully freewheeling perspectives of their own) and the agile storytelling of acclaimed adult fiction writer Prose will entertain young readers while making important distinctions between lying and storytelling. (ages 6 to 8)
Child magazine's Best Children's Book Awards 2005
Publishers Weekly
Mismatched art and text unfortunately obscure the theme of this confusing story about the difference between lying and storytelling. Every Sunday afternoon Leopold of Leipzig tells fantastical (and alliterative) stories at the zoo-about the lizard ladies in the land of Lusitana or about caterpillars in the country of Carthaginia-but a jealous scientist accuses Leopold of being a liar. Debut artist Aviram paints a deliciously forbidding court, in which "twelve of the harshest and fiercest judges in Leipzig" crowd out the accused in a full-bleed spread. Leopold explains, "Don't you see? You can make up all sorts of fantastic things, and unless you say that it actually happened, or that you actually saw something-it's only a story." Aviram's fantasy compositions feature outlandish creatures-red felines dining on electric blue cakes, a green gorilla with a neon-red ice cream cone. But in the compositions for which he combines the real people of Leipzig and Leopold's imagined critters, the juxtaposition further blurs the book's message. Prose's text creates more gray area when, for example, "the greatest scholars in Europe proved" to the court that Leopold is a liar because "there was no land of... Carthaginia," yet young history buffs might point out that the famous (and real) Hannibal was from Carthaginia. And when the scientist announces that in Antarctica penguins "are the only creatures in the landscape," young environmentalists may well name its other inhabitants. A bewildering treatment of an important theme. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1-Everyone loves Leopold, who holds court at the Leipzig zoo on Sunday afternoons and tells fantastic tales of faraway places. One day, a learned professor comes to town and gives a lecture on the real places he has been. Everyone is bored and either leaves or falls asleep. The indignant Doctor Morgenfresser shouts, "Your Leopold is a liar!" and has him hauled off to jail. On trial the man explains that he never claimed any of it actually happened, the people declare him "Leopold the Storyteller," and he is released to tell his stories to the children of the village. While Leopold's alliterative tales are mildly entertaining, the moral is heavy-handed. The thickly painted, woodblock-style artwork, which is reminiscent of Chagall's bright colors and angular, slightly floating characters, is interesting and fits the style and location of the story well. Aviram does a nice job of contrasting the scenes of Leopold's imprisonment and trial with his stories by using drab colors for the former and bright jewel tones for the latter. While this artist is one to watch, the story is minimalist in style and, unfortunately, in its impact.-Amy Lilien-Harper, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060080754
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/30/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.25 (d)

Meet the Author

Francine Prose

Francine Prose is the author of fifteen books of fiction, including A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. Her latest novel, Goldengrove, was published in September 2008. She is the president of PEN American Center. She lives in New York City.

Biography

When it comes to an author as eclectic as Francine Prose, it's difficult to find the unifying thread in her work. But, if one were to examine her entire oeuvre—from novels and short stories to essays and criticism—a love of reading would seem to be the animating force. That may not seem extraordinary, especially for a writer, but Prose is uncommonly passionate about the link between reading and writing. "I've always read," she confessed in a 1998 interview with Atlantic Unbound. "I started when I was four years old and just didn't stop…The only reason I wanted to be a writer was because I was such an avid reader." (In 2006, she produced an entire book on the subject—a nuts-and-bolts primer entitled Reading Like a Writer, in which she uses excerpts from classic and contemporary literature to illustrate her personal notions of literary excellence.)

If Prose is specific about the kind of writing she, herself, likes to read, she's equally voluble about what puts her off. She is particularly vexed by "obvious, tired clichés; lazy, ungrammatical writing; implausible plot turns." Unsurprisingly, all of these are notably absent in her own work. Even when she explores tried-and-true literary conventions—such as the illicit romantic relationship at the heart of her best known novel, Blue Angel—she livens them with wit and irony. She even borrowed her title from the famous Josef von Sternberg film dealing with a similar subject.

As biting and clever as she is, Prose cringes whenever her work is referred to as satire. She explained to Barnes & Noble.com, "Satirical to me means one-dimensional characters…whereas, I think of myself as a novelist who happens to be funny—who's writing characters that are as rounded and artfully developed as the writers of tragic novels."

Prose's assessment of her own work is pretty accurate. Although her subject matter is often ripe for satire (religious fanaticism in Household Saints, tabloid journalism in Bigfoot Dreams, upper-class pretensions in Primitive People), etc.), she takes care to invest her characters with humanity and approaches them with respect. "I really do love my characters," she says, "but I feel that I want to take a very hard look at them. I don't find them guilty of anything I'm not guilty of myself."

Best known for her fiction, Prose has also written literary criticism for The New York Times, art criticism for The Wall Street Journal, and children's books based on Jewish folklore, all of it infused with her alchemic blend of humor, insight,and intelligence.

Good To Know

Prose rarely wastes an idea. In Blue Angel, the novel that the character Angela is writing is actually a discarded novel that Prose started before stopping because, in her own words, "it seemed so juvenile to me."

While she once had no problem slamming a book in one of her literary critiques, these days Prose has resolved to only review books that she actually likes. The ones that don't adhere to her high standards are simply returned to the senders.

Prose's novel Household Saints was adapted into an excellent film starring Tracey Ullman, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Lili Taylor in 1993.

Another novel, The Glorious Ones, was adapted into a musical.

In 2002, Prose published The Lives of the Muses, an intriguing hybrid of biography, philosophy, and gender studies that examines nine women who inspired famous artists and thinkers—from John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono to Alice Liddell, the child who enchanted Lewis Carroll.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 1, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

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