CM . . .
. Volume XIII Number 4 . . . . October 13, 2006
Basing his tale on European folk traditions, the Toronto librarian and storyteller Ken Setterington tells of a poor but clever young woman who solved a king's riddle and becomes his wife. The riddle involves appearing at the palace, not clothed yet not naked, not walking yet not riding, and not on the road yet not off the road. Katarina solves the riddle by wrapping herself in a fishnet, the end of which is tied to a donkey's tail and carries her, bouncing, along the edge of the road. Setterington's prose is fluent, and his story is told in traditional wording.
What makes this little book unusual are the illustrations, done in silhouette style of paper cutting by Nelly and Ernst Hofer who learned the art in their native Switzerland. Showing delicate details of trees, animals, peasants and kings, the illustrations precede each of the six chapters plus ornamenting numerous additional pages. There is a final chapter on the history and art of paper cutting.
Clever Katarina could be used in an art lesson with older children to illustrate paper cutting. It might also be used to introduce a fairy-tale unit as it contains many of the elements of traditional tales: the poor but honest and clever heroine, the three challenges, the royal marriage etc.
One drawback is the appearance of the book, which is neither a traditional picture book nor a usual story book. The cover is a dull gold papercut on a dark red background which does not catch the eye. Hopefully, if the book is introduced properly, young readers will overlook these weaknesses and enjoy the inside pages.
Helen Norrie, a former teacher-librarian, writes a monthly column on children's books for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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