Book Review: Puss in Boots

Rating: ★★★★☆

Fred Marcellino’s artistic interpretation of Puss in Boots, narrated by a spare translation of Perrault’s original story, is nothing short of impressive.  The book is a visual feast, its fantastical events unfolding with their own strange coherency.  The mood of this book is a bit darker than Galdone’s, with the puckish Puss killing rabbits for the king “without mercy or compassion” and the giant’s ogreish meals peeking out from under silver trays as servants glide past Puss on his way up the lushly carpeted stair.  Parents of sensitive readers may wish to stick with Galdone’s version, but this version accurately captures the mood of Perrault’s original story.

Puss’s outrageous success in advancing his master’s interests through deception may well be troubling for parents, who will wish to interpret the story to their young children while still encouraging them to tell the truth.  Puss’s panache is undeniably attractive, and (unlike Toad in The Wind in the Willows), he never receives the just consequences of his unscrupulous behavior.  While some parents will choose to avoid the story, it should be noted that Puss’s victims were all taken in by means of their own moral weakness: the king was overly fond of good food, which made him vulnerable to Puss’s blandishments.  The princess was so shallow as to be impressed by the miller’s son’s clothing (provided in her presence by her weak-willed father).  The ogre was too arrogant to view Puss as a threat, and foolishly turned himself into a mouse, opening himself up for attack.  All of these people naively accepted the line presented to them, and so were taken in.

Puss is a scoundrel, and children ought to know that there are scoundrels in the world who will prey upon the morally weak.  The only danger is that the audience will actually be taken in by Puss’s charm and admire him for his own sake.

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Publication Information: Marcellino, Fred. Puss in Boots. Perrault, Charles (Original Author). Malcolm, Arthur (Translator). Michael DiCapua. 1990. ISBN: 0374460345.
Categories: 4 Stars, Caldecott Honor
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Posted on July 31, 2010

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