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The Musicians of Bremen

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Seeking a new lease on life, four clever creatures make music and mischief in this elegant edition of an oft-told classic.

Once upon a time, Donkey, Dog, Cat, and Rooster, spurned by their owners, decide to set off to Bremen to make their way as musicians, each one according to his voice: Donkey a lute player, Dog a drummer, Cat a violinist, and Rooster a tenor. Along the way, the talented troubadours put on a show for a band of robbers who, it turns out, are in for a terrible ...

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Seeking a new lease on life, four clever creatures make music and mischief in this elegant edition of an oft-told classic.

Once upon a time, Donkey, Dog, Cat, and Rooster, spurned by their owners, decide to set off to Bremen to make their way as musicians, each one according to his voice: Donkey a lute player, Dog a drummer, Cat a violinist, and Rooster a tenor. Along the way, the talented troubadours put on a show for a band of robbers who, it turns out, are in for a terrible fright. Thai artist Niroot Puttapipat takes one of the Grimm brothers' best-loved fairy tales and wryly retells it from the point of view of the animals. His stunning illustrations make this a unique edition to treasure. A compelling endnote mentions other historical versions of the traditional tale and explains why the author chose to set his narrative in the 1600s - an era that offered the chance to highlight some of the great musical composers of the time.

Four old animals destined for destruction leave home to become town musicians, but find something even better on the way to Bremen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From Rackham to Cruikshank, from Disney to the Muppets, the Grimm brothers' tale has been appropriated in many mediums, but for Puttapipat's first picture book, he has chosen an early 17th-century setting for his full-color and pen-and-ink sketches. The robbers exhibit the stylishness of villains from the Three Musketeers, and the animals are as finely rendered as if they were taken from paintings in some fairy tale castle. Puttapipat's retelling closely resembles the original Grimm version (within a frame story that seems unnecessary), about a greyhound, rooster, cat and donkey whose masters were about to get rid of them because they were old. They all decide to run away to Bremen town, and the artist's watercolors move from realistic renderings of the animals to an almost mystical vision of the robbers' cottage at dusk. More comical scenes depict the quartet scaring away the robbers and claiming their digs for themselves. Although animals' instruments are nowhere to be seen in the illustrations, the spot art is filled with scrolls of sheet music, and much is made in the text of the instruments the animals choose to play ("Come and be the violinist to my lutenist and Dog's drummer"). Unfortunately, the narrative's emphasis upon the instruments minimizes the humor to be found in the discrepancy between the racket made by the animals' braying, meowing, barking and crowing, and the "music" they imagine they are making. Ages 4-8. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
The traditional tale is retold briskly and vividly here, supposedly by the Donkey, as the four major characters gather in their home. Instead of making music together there one night, they enjoy the story of how Donkey, Dog, Cat, and Rooster, all cast out by their owners, meet and decide to go to Bremen together to perform music. At nightfall they come upon a house belonging to robbers. In a scene of almost slapstick comedy they manage to frighten the robbers away, and are thus comfortably ensconced, happy to make music there rather than in Bremen. Ink and watercolors reminiscent of Arthur Rackham, with costumes suggesting 17th century Europe, give an elegance to the visual sequences. A double-page portrait of an angry crowing rooster is a particularly engaging image, but all the quartet characters are portrayed in meticulous detail as in the double-page line-up starting off for Bremen. The full-color scenes combine with smaller drawn sketches to offer a stimulating, elegant version of the old tale. A note on the story and its versions includes mention of the music of the time that, perhaps, the musicians might have played. 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 4 to 8.
—Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-This carefully worded retelling of the popular Grimm brothers' tale is also a lovely blend of text and illustration. Holding closely to the original, Puttapipat uses the conceit of the donkey, at the request of his three companions, relating the story of their grand adventure as an evening's entertainment. Nicely composed and finely detailed ink-and-watercolor illustrations cover a large part of each spread, leaving creamy spaces against which the text is set. The first and last paintings, outlined by white borders, help to carry out the framing device. On some pages, a soft, fine-lined black-ink vignette sits beside the larger colored composition, adding further pictorial detail from the text. The animals are realistically painted, with personality in their facial expressions. Chests out, heads held high, they have clearly bolstered their self-esteem by banding together. An author's note explains why the human characters are dressed in 17th-century garb. This beautifully executed folktale would be a great addition to any collection.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This beloved Grimms' tale time-travels to the 17th century in a beautifully illustrated retelling by the grandson of a Lan Na Thai princess. The story's basics remain the same: Four cast-off, doomed-for-slaughter animals meet up on the road and agree to travel to Bremen as musicians. One night, when the hungry troubadours encounter a band of robbers feasting in a cottage, they try out their musical act (while bursting through a window), understandably terrifying the four men. (Who knew a donkey's bass continuo and a rooster's aria could be so chilling?) The robbers bolt, then return only to be scared off again, convinced that the scratching, biting creatures must be trolls and demons. The animals move in to the cottage and live happily ever after. The author explains that a 17th-century setting allowed him to develop the musical aspect of the story, with brief mentions of composers from Claudio Monteverdi to Heinrich Schutz. The watercolor-and-ink illustrations are intricate and gorgeous, but also lively and expressive. Make room on the "Bremen Town Musicians" shelf. (author's note) (Picture book. 6-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763627584
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 10/11/2005
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.38 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.41 (d)

Meet the Author

NIROOT PUTTAPIPAT grew up in Thailand, the grandson of a Lan Na Thai princess. As a child, he often spent time drawing and acting out stories, leading to a lifelong interest in art and literature. Niroot Puttapipat says he was intrigued by the story of THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN because of his love of music and his passion for drawing animals, particularly birds. A recent graduate of Kingston University, he now lives in London. THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN is his first full-length picture book.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 2, 2009

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    'The Musicians of Bremen' as illustrated in watercolor and ink by Niroot Puttapipat is a treasure, a work of art. Most are well familiar with the story of the four aging animals who band together to go to Bremen and become musicians. In this artist's hands the animals look as if they have led long lives, yet they're endearing, each invested with a distinct personality that mirrors the animal's past. First, we see donkey who is going to be discarded by her owner because she can no longer carry heavy sacks of flour. There she is - silhouetted against a sparse landscape, her tail drooping but proud, her thin legs weary from work. Dog has fled in fear from a master who knows the dog can no longer hunt - he is still panting from the exertion of running away, and poor cat lies by the side of the road, discarded by a mistress because his teeth and claws are no longer able to capture mice. Finally, an 'utterly furious rooster crowing for all he was worth' because he knows he's on the menu for Sunday dinner. What a quartet they make. The robbers are the sneakiest, slyest looking bunch you've ever seen, avarice and greed personified. This is Niroot Puttapipat's first picture book. It's a winner! - Gail Cooke

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