"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Friday, March 18, 2011

Peter and the Blue Witch Baby by Robert San Souci

Peter and the Blue Witch Baby by Robert San Souci. Illus by Alexi Natchev, 2000.

This folktale retelling appears to be unique (among picture books) and I love it because it is so odd. It is the story of Tsar Peter, who is looking for a bride, but unfortunately rejects the wrong woman. In return, she swears to undo him when his wife is chosen. Shortly after, Peter falls in love with the Little Sister of the Sun and sets out to win her. But, his plans are complicated by the arrival at his palace of an unknown, black-toothed baby girl. Softhearted, Peter keeps the orphan child only to find on return from his courtship that she has turned into a blue-skinned, iron-toothed monster baby larger than his palace and that she’s bent on revenge. Luckily, Peter has some magical friends and a very powerful brother-in-law-to-be.

This book thrilled me with illustrations of what has to be the scariest baby in any picture book! Her orange eyes, gaping red mouth and furious expression seal the deal. I also enjoy the pictures of the thwarted woman’s transformation from beautiful bridal candidate to fork-tongued witch in a swirl of grey smoke and a fall of snakes, frogs and lizards. Another pleasure is a helpful mouse playing a lullaby on a dulcimer to keep the Witch Baby asleep. I think this folktale looks just like it should.

The book’s jacket suggests it is appropriate for ages 4-8, but I would be careful with younger or more sensitive children. I think that it is a fun, over the top tale that would be great to share with the older readers in that range.

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