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

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Peter and the Wolf by Segei Prokofiev

You may remember, as I do, listening to the musical story of Peter and the Wolf when you were a child. I had a record of it, and it was true to the characters of Peter and his friends the bird and the duck, his cautious grandfather, hunting cat, and the menacing wolf and well-armed hunters, each represented by a particular instrument. It also told the basic story of Peter and the bird catching the wolf after it has swallowed the duck whole.

Sergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf: With a Fully-Orchestrated and Narrated CDSergei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf: With a Fully-Orchestrated and Narrated CD Retold by Janet Schulman, Illus. by Peter Malone, 2004. CD narrated by Peter A. Thomas, Music by the Cincinnati Pops, Directed by Erich Kunzel.

I really feel that this story is best served as a musical experience. For this reason, this book and CD set stands above the other purely picture book versions. The story is a little dry without the enchanting music. However it has some additions that I enjoyed but did not find in the other versions, such as Grandfather dreaming of a angel and a bear and a runaway bull at the story's beginning. Other differences are that the duck is watching out for the bird, and this is why she is caught by the wolf, that the hunters are described as cowardly, that the wolf is allowed to go back to the woods, and that the duck is coughed up and marches in the procession escorting the wolf home.

 To explain the concept of characters as instruments, this book has an introductory page showing each character playing the instrument that symbolizes them. Some of the pictures contain humor and whimsy, like the feathered friends imagining each other flying with the aid of a propeller or swimming with an inner tube and flippers, or the runaway bull floating through the sky and eventually coming down to earth to be found again. The wolf is shown as a frightening foe. taking up almost the entire frame and flashing sharp claws and pointy teeth.

Peter and the Wolf Peter and the Wolf Translated by Maria Carlson. Illus. by Charles Mikolaycak, 1982.

This is told as a straightforward story with no mention of Prokofiev’s music.  The tale concludes with the wolf in his cage in the zoo, with the quacking duck in his stomach.  Mikolaycak’s illustrations are colorful and delightful.

Peter and the Wolf Peter and the Wolf retold and Illus. by Chris Raschka, 2008.

Raschka has set out the characters on a little stage, and accordingly, he first lists the cast of characters, then introduces them one by one. The plot is faithful with one little addition: a veterinarian. I'll let you guess why. This version has a more modern feel than the others, partly because of Raschka's lively art and bright backgrounds, but also because each character has a way of talking that's uniquely their own. For example, the duck says:"Waieo, What kind of baierd Are yoooouuuuuuuuuu if yaieo Can't swiiiiiiiiiiiiiim?" to which the bird replies" D-ducky d-dacky d-docky d deeky."

Peter and the WolfPeter and the Wolf, Illustrated by Erna Voigt. 1980.

This title also begins by introducing the characters and the instruments that they play. Voight gives us a picture of them all together, making their own little orchestra. The story is basically the same as the others. Music is involved here when  Voight gives a picture of each instrument and a line of the written music at the place in the story when each would come in.. Each character is introduced in 2 x 2 black and white illustration, then a full color page. This book has art that I really enjoy, with pastoral scenes showing a lovely day with green grass, dandelions, and a skipping Peter. The artist uses muted colors, with skies of blue, pink and gold.  I like the grey tiger cat, fur on end because of the angular wolf below.  The final procession shows everyone looking happy, including the hapless duck visible inside the wolf’s tummy.

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