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Michael Bedard. Illustrated by Regolo Ricci.
Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press, 1990.
28pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-19-540767-9. CIP.

Kindergarten-grade 6 / Ages 5-11

Reviewed by Edith Strocen.

Volume 18 Number 5
1990 September

"The Tinder Box" is a familiar story by Hans Christian Andersen. Michael Bedard, in retelling the story, has retained much of the original flavour but has modified and elaborated the original tale.

In the Andersen version, a common soldier is challenged by an old woman to climb down into a hollow tree to recover a tinderbox. He does so but finds, along with the tinderbox, a wealth of treasure in copper, silver and gold coin, guarded by dogs with "eyes as big as saucers," "eyes as big as platters," and "eyes as big as millstones." The third dog in Bedard's version has eyes compared in size to spinning wheels. Having recovered the tinderbox and collected a goodly amount of gold, the soldier climbs out and kills the old woman.

Bedard draws a kinder version of the soldier than Andersen did. The reason for the murder of the woman in this version is that she transforms herself into an evil witch and frightens the soldier into killing her. Later, when the soldier lives the life of an idle rich man, he redeems himself somewhat by sharing his wealth with the poor. Beyond these changes, Bedard retells the story in the style of the Andersen tale.

The illustrations by Regolo Ricci are very striking. The dogs with their monstrous eyes are proportionately larger than most of the dogs in the illustrations in other versions. The eyes are contained in their eyelids instead of jutting out over the top of the head and are compellingly expressive. The dogs are all snarling boxer types and look most fierce. Other paintings show a setting with a French flavour: the style of dress is Napoleonic and the wallpaper in the soldier's room has a fleur-de-lis pattern. The soldier, with his goatee and waxed moustache, is a most romantic-looking figure and the princess is properly beautiful.

A delightful retelling of a familiar fairy tale.

Edith Strocen, Greenway School, Winnipeg, MB.
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