In his series of books called Preposterous Fables for Unusual Children (Bayeux Arts), Judd Palmer revisits traditional tales and rewrites them with unlikely heroes and peculiar details. In The Maestro, which earned Palmer a Governor General’s Award nomination, the hero is young Hannah, a rescuer of children enchanted by a maniacal Pied Piper, who turns out to be a dear and driven musical connoisseur. The Wolf King tells the story of the son of the boy who cried wolf, living with the terrible weight of his father’s reputation. The Sorcerer’s Last Words is a retelling of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, originally written by Goethe, yet known to most (sigh) by Disney. The Tooth Fairy tells the story of Abigail, Defender of Teeth, and her great journey to the dreaded castle of the Tooth Fairy.
While I appreciate the sanctity of classics, and I’m often wary of efforts to make what’s old new, the experience of reading these stories is a joyous one. The writing is romantic, lugubrious and silly: a happy turnaround from a more formal approach to the telling of fairy tales. They are written with an earnest respect for the intelligence of kids, and, spared of sugar- coating, they are fit for an adult audience as well. The books are illustrated by Palmer with fine pencil drawings that are very beautiful and also very silly.
Together, the images and the text weave a sentiment altogether lovely and original, and I’m newly enchanted by tales I knew as a girl.