Monday, April 26, 2010

The Thieves and the Raven

The Thieves and the Raven
Janosch ~ translated from the German by Elizabeth Shub
Macmillian, 1969

With each book I discover, this German illustrator grows on me. His themes are larger and more cosmic than in your average children's book, almost always with a certain angle of real-life fear or anxiety coupled with human wonder. Of course here, our hero is a raven, making it all the more popular with my son.

Once there were three thieves. The first was called Fobrokel, the second, Spobrokel, and the third, Lefty. Fobrokel was the worst of the lot. They lived in the forest and were a menace to the surrounding farms and villages. They were wild rascals and wore beards. They attacked the peasant women who had to pass through the forest to take their eggs to market, and frightened away the mushroom pickers. They threw their eggs in the air, juggling them until they broke, and scattered the carefully collected mushrooms over the peat bog.

Mushrooms and eggs aren't the only things they like to ruin. They eat the forest animals, sing terrible, out-of-tune songs and rob the world blind. The police could not nab them, and though they tried, the villages could not foil their evil schemes. But when the thieves take to eating raven's eggs (and even raven chicks, aghast!), things get personal... and the king of the ravens comes up with the ultimate plan to rid the forest of their ugly forever.Wonderful storytelling with Janosch's always delightful though somewhat crude illustrations. (The color is positively alive!) Take note of the photograph used for the face of the farmer with the rake. Self portrait perhaps? It's the only one in the whole book which makes it particularly striking. (Ungerer does this sometimes too.)

Also by:
The Lazy Blackbird and Other Verses

1 comment:

Christina Rodriguez said...

Love how the raven has a little crown on his head, signifying his "king" status!

I love stories with "trickster raven" themes. Fairly common with Northwest American Indian tribes, but it's a pleasure to see something like this come out of Germany, too.

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