Jim Henson’s The Storyteller is a collection of fairy tales from around the world, adapted and illustrated by a wide variety of artists and writers. The result may not be what you were expecting — or maybe it is.
The framing is, as might be guessed, set up around a storyteller who, in his various incarnations — there’s a version done by each illustrator at the beginning of each story — looks like an avuncular James Arness, although slightly more life-size. And the storyteller, in addition of having a comfortable and well-stocked library, has a large floppy dog, who not only talks, but argues.
There were a couple of stories that stood out for me. One is a poetic and magical take on the story of “Puss in Boots” by Marjorie Liu and Jennifer K. Meyer. It’s certainly the most charming version I’ve run across, and Janet K. Lee’s art fits the mood perfectly: fluid, almost impressionistic, it’s nonetheless sharply focused and has a certain magic of its own.
The other one that caught me was an adaptation of the Japanese tale of “Momotaro the Peach Boy,” which I have run across in reference but never encountered a full telling. From Ron Marz and Craig Rousseau, it’s a bare-bones telling that once again works perfectly with the vigorous, muscular style of the art (uncredited, but I believe is Rousseau’s).
On the whole, I have to class this one as a read-aloud for pre-schoolers: the stories are that simply told, with little or no development or depth. Ironically enough, the art may in some instances be too sophisticated for that age group.
And there’s not really much more to say.
(The Jim Henson Company/Archaia Entertainment, 2011)