BOOKS

The Tinderbox

illus. by Vladyslav Yerko. 24p. A-Ba-Ba Haus. May 2016. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9780996560641.
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Gr 3 Up-One of Andersen's earliest fairy tales, "The Tinderbox" is considered a classic of the genre. But unlike in his other tales, this hero is self-absorbed and greedy. First published in 1835, the story begins with a soldier returning home from war, his knapsack on his back and a sword at his side. As he walks, he meets an ugly old witch. She asks him to climb into a hollow tree to retrieve a magic tinderbox and gives the soldier permission to take anything he finds inside the tree, but he must return the tinderbox. In the tree, he comes across three chambers filled with copper, silver, and gold coins guarded by three monstrous dogs. He fills his pockets and knapsack and returns to the witch. When she demands the tinderbox, the soldier draws his sword, "and that [is] the end of the witch." The soldier becomes rich and extravagant. He learns the secret of the tinderbox. When he strikes the flint, the three monstrous dogs appear, ready to grant him any wish. In true fairy-tale style, he also goes on to discover a princess in a locked tower and has one of the dogs kidnap her. He falls in love with her, but her royal parents have him arrested, put in prison, and sentenced to death. On the day of execution, the soldier sends a boy for his tinderbox, and, at the scaffold, asks to have a last smoke. When he strikes the match, the dogs appear, fall on the judges and council members, and "toss…them high into the air, so high that they [break] into pieces." The soldier and the princess are united, and the dogs join the wedding feast. Yerko's pencil and watercolor artwork is expressive and intricate. The book's oversize format gives readers the opportunity to enjoy his exquisite detail. Inset illustrations and incidental art as well as full-page pictures are interspersed throughout to create a clever design that perfectly complements this somewhat mysterious and curious folktale.
VERDICT Perhaps not a first choice when sharing Andersen's work, especially with the younger crowd, but this book would be a beautiful addition to any comprehensive fairy-tale collection.-Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY

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