Walser, David and Pienkowski, Jan: The Glass Mountain.
Walser, David and Pienkowski, Jan
The Glass Mountain
Walker, 2014, pp104, 12.99 [pounds sterling]
978 1 4063 4865 1
This is a retelling of Polish folk tales, all well known in their homeland. They are recognisably in the tradition of mid-European folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. Although none of them exactly matches versions known to British children they contain elements known to all, not least through the pantomime tradition. Like all good folk tales these are desperately politically incorrect, with kings happily handing over their daughters to deserving heroes, but there are unexpected twists; the fearsome witch Baba Jaga is the one who restores the frog-princess to her patient lover. The authors are not tied to the letter of the generally received texts; in the best traditions of folk-tale telling they are prepared to adapt and modify. Tourists to Krakow will be familiar with the Hejnal trumpet call that alerted the city to Tartar attackers; in this version the trumpeter is indeed shot before finishing the Hejnal, but young readers will be glad to hear that his grandson continued to sound the alarm.
Delightful as the stories are, the strength of the book lies in the superb illustrations, all derived from paper cut-outs using scissors and pinking shears. The inspiration behind Jan Peinkowski's art is as romantic as any of the tales he illustrates; he describes in his introduction how a soldier entertained him with paper cut-outs while the Warsaw Rising raged overhead. The book is presumably aimed at young children, but the sheer quality of the illustrations, of a kind unfamiliar to British readers, and the liveliness of the traditional story-telling make it a delight for readers of any age.