Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Troll Book


Michael Berenstain ~ Random House, 1980

This post is going to involve a number of my favorite things. First, I love getting e-mails that include the words, "I WAS WONDERING IF YOU REMEMBER A BOOK..." Often, I don't know the book the reader is after (sometimes I do, YAY), and I send them to whatsthatbook.com. The best part is, they usually write me back to tell me what it was when they find it.

Well, the other day I was emptying out my inbox and came across an unopened e-mail from a year ago. 

It read...


"I love your blog for children's books. I came across it while looking for a book I used to read when I was little and now I want to get it for my daughter. From what I remember it had either goblins or trolls that lived underground or inside trees. It looks like it might have been made in the early 80s or late 70s. The drawings were of a tree cut in half and inside lived the creatures. I used to love the fact that it was very intricately drawn. I've been looking for it for years."



Feeling like crap that an e-mail had gone unanswered for so long, I immediately wrote him back saying I did not recognize the book, and within a few hours, I received a reply back that it was quite alright because he had tracked down the book in question.

This one.



The second thing about this post that I love is anything old school Berenstain Bears or related to Bear Country really gets me excited, particularly when it's something I've never seen before. I'm a fan of the Berenstain's youngest son Michael, in that he draws in the same style as his parents but always gives it a wee bit more of an edge. When my son was younger, he loved Michael's "I Heart Dinosaurs" series: Day of the DinosaurThe Horned DinosaurThe Spike-Tailed DinosaurFlying Dinosaurs and The Biggest Dinosaurs. There's even more to love like Peat Moss and IvyThe Ship BookThe Castle Book and the one I'm dying to see but have never gotten my hands on... The Creature Catalog.

As big a fan as I am, I'd never even heard of The Troll Book! I immediately looked online and the least expensive copy available was $50. Damn it!

Which leads me to the third favorite thing about this post. The fact that I now work in an office that's housed in a library. Three minutes after remembering that fact, I had this book in my hand. The Troll Book.

Which, is just that. A book about trolls.



Deep in the forests of Scandinavia, where the dark pines loom and pale lichens spot the rocks, there dwell a strange and little known folk. No one knows how long they have been there, nor how first they came into the world. But it is clear that they are an ancient race--so ancient, in fact, that the pines, the lichens, even the rocks feel young when they pass by. 

They are the trolls.



In the pages that follow, we learn loads of interesting facts about trolls and their brethren. Like, did you know trolls, "with their big, furry ears...can hear a wolf's heartbeat at fifty paces"? Or that they live in hollowed-out tree trunks. That "troll magic is not an art or craft. It is an ability as natural as seeing or breathing"? That a "night troll" can turn a human into a troll by "rubbing them with magic troll ointment, stretching their arms, and howling in their ears"?



So many wonderful mysteries unfold, all in the signature hatching style. I love the Berenstain style when Stan and Jan were at their peak and Michael's older work certainly reflects that penwork.

Currently, Michael spends his time keeping the family flame alive by illustrating new Berenstain Bear adventures, often giving them religious undertones, but man, oh, man would I like to see more troll and monster books from him in the future.

Here's hoping.





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12 comments:

Ms. said...

Haven't commented here in a long while, life off line being what life off line can be, but this is so delightful, I'm checking in just to say "Hurrah!", and zipping over to post it on my facebook page for friends to enjoy.

Melissa@Julias Bookbag said...

WOW. this looks amazing! gonna try and find! we're big on trolls around here...

Ben said...

This book is indeed fantastic. I read this often at my library when I was a kid and then had to track it down later in life, not knowing it was kind of rare. I don't own it yet, but bought my brother a copy a few years back. Dig that cutaway troll mound!

Robyn... Pen Pals and Picture Books said...

It's a new one to me- very cool. would love to get my hands on a copy! I'll keep my eyes open for this one.

Alex Edouard said...

I have this book - really fired my imagination and is still a rewarding read. I look forward to showing it to my son in due course. Reminded me of Trouble for Trumpets by Peter Cross - do you know this book? So hard/expensive to find now :(

Kimberly said...

This book looks wonderful. I'll be on the lookout for a used copy!

jengod said...

FABULOUS! I had no idea that Michael B. was an artist and writer in his own right and this is just tremendously cool. I'll keep an eye out for it and his other works! THANK YOU!!

Dan Moynihan said...

Looks fantastic! I just requested it through my local library network! I had the Creature Catalog as a kid. It might still be in a box in my parents' attic.

nanoalchemist said...

Another classic. What I like is the "documentary" tone he takes with it. It's just so well written. There are a lot of gems in there like

"It is from this story that the idea of trolls living under bridges has come. Trolls are usually shown living in caves, huts, or even castles. Never under bridges. However, the idea of waylaying travelers with intent to consume seems fairly common."

and "Of course, not all trolls are evil...if they find a child lost in the woods, they will take him home, give him a bowl of gruel and entertain him through the night with the Troll Stop, the traditional trollish dance. Most children survive this hospitality."

nanoalchemist said...

Another classic. What I like is the "documentary" tone he takes with it. It's just so well written. There are a lot of gems in there like

"It is from this story that the idea of trolls living under bridges has come. Trolls are usually shown living in caves, huts, or even castles. Never under bridges. However, the idea of waylaying travelers with intent to consume seems fairly common."

and "Of course, not all trolls are evil...if they find a child lost in the woods, they will take him home, give him a bowl of gruel and entertain him through the night with the Troll Stop, the traditional trollish dance. Most children survive this hospitality."

Colin Tedford said...

This was one of those books for me, too! All I remembered was the cover image and a couple of inside details, and I thought the title was "Trolls". Neither that nor the real title are much help in an internet search, so I figured I'd never find it (but still tried occasionally). A couple years ago I tried guessing the publication date and got it right the first time. So exciting! I found a copy for under $20 and was delighted to find I still enjoyed it as an adult. Plus though I'd forgotten most of the book, many of the pages were immediately familiar when I looked at them. I (now) remember being disturbed as a kid by the process of turning people into trolls (but of course not in a way that made me dislike the book).

Amojgani said...

O my, I haven't seen, thought of, or remembered this book in probably more than 2 decades. Smiling to see it here and remember how much it fascinated me as a child.

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