The Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski
|The Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Magical, dark, unsettling and thrilling...these European fairytales are wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 128||Date: November 2011|
|Publisher: Jonathan Cape|
|External links: Author's website|
I do like a good collection of fairytales, and by that I mean the rather more menacing, edgy versions, rather than the sanitised re-tellings that we often see. Here Joan Aiken is retelling some European fairytales and they are full of dragons and mermaids and goblins and witches. It's exactly the sort of more unusual collection of stories that would have kept me happy and quiet on a dull, rainy afternoon as a child and it has the added attraction of many atmospheric and beautiful illustrations by Pienkowski.
Aiken's stories are wonderfully told. The tone is quite straightforward - bad things happen in some of the tales and that's just the way it is - but there are also intriguing little details thrown in throughout the tales. One story ends As for the three goblins, they crept back to the king of the vookodlaks and he beat them all, and made them stand on their heads in the mud for three years and thirty days which is a wonderful image of comeuppance! Characters vary from being sympathetic to disturbing, clever or sometimes behaving so foolishly that you're almost shouting at the book to warn them of their folly!
Some of the characters' names are a little unusual and tricky to pronounce, but they do add an extra flavour to the tales. Newly confident readers might struggle with the vocabulary occasionally, so it's probably best for those aged around 9 or so, but you could easily read the stories aloud for slightly younger children, thereby getting to enjoy them yourself as well as sharing them with your child!
Jan Pienkowski's illustrations are beautiful. They are all in silhouette, giving each story the feel of a shadow theatre performance. The shadowy characters also seem to have an extra edge of menace too. Even though they are silhouettes they still manage to be gorgeously delicate and detailed, and I found myself stopping at each picture to enjoy the scene depicted.
This would make a lovely gift for a keen reader, one that I think they'd return to repeatedly in years to come.
For more of Aiken's wonderful fairytales try The Winter Sleepwalker by Joan Aiken
You can read more book reviews or buy The Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.