Book of the Month: January 2020

Happy new year and new decade! Hope you all had wonderful holidays. 

This year falls onto the year of the rat so I’m going to share a book featuring the little cheeky (and cheesy) animal. And, to help us set a meaningful new year resolution, what could be better than a good old cautionary tale? So my first book of the month in 2020 is The Pied Piper of Hamelin retold and illustrated by Thomas Baas (Little Gestalten 2016).

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In this famous German legend, which dates back to the Middle Ages, the townspeople in Hamelin, where they led a carefree lifestyle of endless merriment, are ready to celebrate Christmas with big feasts. But out of blue a rodent infestation strikes the town and threatens the celebration. The mayor offers a proposition: rid the town of the rats and be given one thousand gold coins.

A mysterious stranger with a small pipe arrives in the town and entices the rats beyond the town gates and tricks them to drawn by his magical melodies. But the greedy and ungrateful mayor and townspeople deny his reward and they keep on celebrating the holiday. When the Pied Piper comes back to the town, he enchants the town’s children to follow him out of town and into a cave and were never seen again. 

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This old story was given new life with Thomas Baas’ contemporary illustrations in a beautifully dark palette of greenish blues and reds. The limited colour palette is beautiful and the use of negative spaces is so inspiring. I like old fairy/folk tales revived for new generations of readers like this book. In past years there were quite a few good ones. For example, The Steadfast Tin Soldier by joohee yoon, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Yoyoi Kusama, and Hansel & Gretel by Simon Armitate and Clive Hicks-Jenkins.

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I like Little Gestalten as they always use striking, high-end illustrations (probably because they are European). They say:

“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.” These words from George Bernard Shaw are at the heart of Little Gestalten’s vision. Pairing compelling stories with striking visuals, our picture books, nonfiction, illustrated stories, and pop-ups captivate children of a variety of ages and appeal to discerning adults.

I like publishers who are not afraid to use more mature topics and colour palettes/visual styles because they trust children’s intelligence. If you’re an illustrator and/or ‘discerning adults’, check them out. 

So here it is. My very first book of the month. This mysterious tale helps teach and reinforce the importance of keeping one’s word and the consequences of broken promises. This can’t be more relevant in this time and age when our world leaders shamelessly keep breaking their promises in expense of our planet and our wellbeing just to pursue their greed and interests. Let’s give our children good books in hope for better future. 

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