Philip, Neil. The Pirate Princess and Other Fairy Tales. Illus. by Mark Weber. 2005. 96p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine, $19.99 (0-590-10855-7). 398.2.
Gr. 46. This handsome, large-format volume contains seven fairy tales adapted from the stories written by seventeenth-century Hasidic rabbi Nahman ben Simha, whose recognition of the way traditional tales are constructed predates that of most folklorists. An informative four-page introduction discusses Nahman and his storytelling. The lively collection of varied tales begins with the story of a princess who turns pirate to escape unwanted suitors and rejoin the man she loves. Several of the other stories share elements of adventure, true love, promises, quests, and fortune. The most memorable is “The Turkey Prince,” which has wit and wisdom in equal measure. Weber's many gouache paintings have the stylistic feeling of Chagall. From full-page scenes to small vignettes, they capture the wit, drama, and occasional comedy of the tales. The book concludes with extensive notes, in which Philip discusses the origins and meanings of the stories as well as his reasoning when changing the original text. The bibliography that follows is divided into three parts: Rabbi Nahman, Jewish mysticism and folklore, and general folklore. A lively, appealing collection. Carolyn Phelan
Gr 5 UpPhilip has retold four fairy tales and three short parables attributed to Rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, a noted Hasidic Jewish scholar and teacher in the early 19th century. The stories, most of which contain elements of universal fairy tales, were told to his disciples, and most have references to the coming of the messiah and the redemption of the world. Stylized gouache paintings range in size from smaller vignettes to full page. The larger illustrations have a layered look that appears to result from the use of color upon color combined with areas of stamped design. Contrasting colors and floating or juxtaposed segments evoke images of Chagall paintings. Notes on each tale cover its origin, allegorical representations, and variations in detail. More compelling versions of two of these tales can be found in Howard Schwartz's Elijah's Violin and Other Jewish Fairy Tales (Oxford Univ., 1994) and in Uri Shulevitz's The Treasure (Farrar, 1979). Synagogue and Jewish day school libraries may want to have Philip's collection on hand.Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH