Sunday, October 29, 2017

Picture Book Review: The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney

The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney. unpgd. Little, Brown and Company, May, 2017. 9780316341578. (Review of purchased finished copy.)

Folk tales and fairy tales are constantly being retold and illustrated or re-illustrated. Some are more successful than others. Let's just agree to retire all the fairy tales after the masterful Jerry Pinkney does the retelling and illustrating. 

Fairy tales and folk tales were a bedtime staple when the hub and I took turns reading to our sons each night. Both of us owned well-loved, well-worn fairy tale collections from our own youth. Mine was a collection of Hans Christian Anderson tales and his was a collection of Brothers Grimm. We read from collections, some of which were illustrated, some were, in fact, collections illustrated by Pinkney. As I became a fan, I sought out more books illustrated by him. John Henry, the tall tall retold by Julius Lester and illustrated by Pinkney absolutely gutted me. So did his own retelling of The Little Match Girl. I thought he was robbed when Noah's Ark garnered a Caldecott Honor instead of the medal. (Though I did come to appreciate My Friend Rabbit, the winner.) I vowed to be done with Caldecott should Lion & Mouse not win. Thankfully, it did and I can continue my love/ hate relationship with the big awards. 

I admire the obvious care and thought that gets put into each new book. His settings and supporting characters get as much attention to detail as the main characters. His author notes are always informative and offer a glimpse into his process. I appreciate that his publisher invests in producing books that will hold up to multiple readings. The paper stock is sturdy and the books are lovingly designed.

Readers will want to linger over each spread, starting with that gorgeous wrap-around cover. Don't forget to look at the end-pages either. The littlest goat is just sassy as can be. The troll is a study in grossness from his overgrown toenails bursting through the toe of one shoe all the way up to his tusks and fish detritus in his "Jerry Pinkney Red" cap.  This is one that gets better with each reading. Be prepared for your young charges to ask for it again and again. You will not mind in the least.

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