TITLE: The Juniper Tree: And Other Tales from Grimm
AUTHOR: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell
ILLUSTRATOR: Maurice Sendak
PUBLISHED BY: Farrar-Straus & Giroux
Sendak's illustrated version of 27 Grimm Tales came at the height of his career. By 1973, when the set was first published, Sendak had already created his "nutshell library" (see tomorrow's post), as well as the classics, In the Night Kitchen and Where the Wild Things Are. I don't know if he felt suddenly free to do work perfectly suited to his talents and imagination--but that is the feeling I get when I dive into this volume.
Grimm's tales are at time very gruesome--I would not recommend giving these stories to a child unless you are prepared for some very difficult questions and vivid imaginations. I would recommend reading some of them aloud--and discussing with your children the questions and themes present in the books. There is a reason fairy tales have endured--they communicate something fundamental about our world in perhaps the most perfect way of all literature. (See Tolkein's "On Fairy Stories")*
But Sendak's own strange imagination is suited perfectly to the illustration of Grimm's fairy tales. They are all black and white illustrations, one to a story. As you can see from "Bearskin" above and "Rapunzel" below, Sendak has created a cramped little space with somewhat distorted proportions. This reflects perfectly the somewhat distorted world of the imagination--and especially the world of fairy tales.
Of all of Sendak's work, these 30 illustrations are perhaps his best and most powerful.
*I want to be perfectly clear about "censoring" the fairy tales. These stories can be very dark. They at times involve the devil, incest, murder, and pure hatred. But they are also very very good. So read them, work them out in your own mind, and then begin retelling them to your children, as you see fit. But do read them. They're amazing.