Little Red Cap by Brothers Grimm,Lisbeth Zwerger (Illustrator)

We haven’t discussed a Lisbeth Zwerger book here in a while so as we head toward 2012 lets sneak in one more book.  I picked up Little Red Cap – the story most people know as Little Red Ridding Hood – recently and, not surprisingly, I enjoyed it quite a bit.

Children’s Literature review:

This is a reissue of the book that originally was published in 1987. It is a version of the beloved tale of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Once again, children become acquainted with the charming little girl who always wears the red cap that was given to her by her grandmother. One day while on her way to visit her ailing grandmother, she meets the sly and cunning wolf in the forest. He persuades her to wander off the path and gather some flowers for her grandmother, while he rushes to grandmother’s house and gobbles her up. He then pretends to be grandmother and also devours Little Red Cap. Of course, the brave and clever hunter saves both the old lady and Little Red Cap. Zwerger’s beautiful illustrations are an ideal accompaniment to the text as they portray the characters (especially the wolf) with depth and emotion. All libraries should add this to their fairy tale collection.

Unlike some of the other volumes I have covered, this one is perfect for reading out loud. The pages alternate between text – without any unique fonts – and illustrations.  Zwerger offers her reliably evocative and playful illustrations that compliment this classic so well.

As noted above, the wolf  is particularly charming with a variety of facial expressions to match his deviousness as he tricks the innocent, and naive, Red Cap. Continue reading

Swan Lake by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Lisbeth Zwerger

Our tour of Lisbeth Zwerger books in my collection continues today with Swan Lake.  Most people think of the ballet when they think Swan Lake but it was initially written as a one-act fairy tale dance piece for the children of his sister.  It wasn’t until four years later that he was commissioned to create the ballet of the same title.  As Zwerger relates in her author note, the presentation of this most famous of all ballets was a disaster.  Sixteen years later, and after Tchaikovsky‘s death, the score and choreography were changed and the story was given a tragic ending.

Zwerger revives the earlier story, the one with the happy ending, in her retelling of this classic.


Confessing in an appended note that she had approached Swan Lake with mixed feelings because of its tragic conclusion, Zwerger found that her research supported a happier ending, based on Tchaikovsky’s original version of the ballet in 1877. In this picture book, Zwerger offers a series of subtle, delicate paintings illustrating that story. Decorated with swans, boughs, and other figures and flourishes, a few bars of music appear on each left-hand page above the text, offering a musical context for each scene. Facing are large, bordered paintings that illustrate part of the story. Their magical yet somber tone and muted colors suit the many night settings. The delicately composed artwork also has surreal touches, such as the thundercloud that enters the ballroom above the villains’ heads, and the swan’s-head effects sometimes created with the swan queen’s hands. Some of the finest pictures are compositions in black, white, and many shades of gray. Told with drama and illustrated with grace, this is a handsome interpretation of the story.

I agree. It really is a wonderful example of a fairy tales coming to life in words and art.  It is a simple story but full of surprising emotion and depth. And with just ten evocative illustrations Zwerger both brings it to life and inspires the imagination; allowing the reader to bring their imagination to the story and fill in the details.

Continue reading