7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #807:
Featuring Holly Berry and Gerda Muller

h1 August 14th, 2022 by jules

— From Gerda Muller’s The Musicians of Bremen


— From Holly Berry’s Told and Retold
(Click spread to enlarge)


“Storytelling is as old as humankind. Before people could write or read, they entertained each other, taught lessons, shared information, and expressed universal truths by telling stories.” This is the introduction to Holly Berry’s picture book Told and Retold: Around the World with Aesop’s Fables (Philomel, August 2022). And it applies to the other book I’m featuring today, Gerda Muller’s The Musicians of Bremen: A Grimm’s Fairy Tale (Floris), originally released in France nearly a decade ago but coming to shelves next month in a (second) U.S. edition.

Let’s take a look at these two new picture books, celebrating traditional tales. …

First up is Muller’s The Musicians of Bremen. As noted, Muller — who in the past 50 years has published more than 120 children’s books — originally published this in French in 2014. It was released in English in 2015, and this year we see a second edition. This is the satisfying classic Grimm Brothers’ tale of four misfit, outcast, and discarded animals — a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster — who set out to the town of Bremen. (Despite the story’s title, they never quite make it there.) When they come upon a cabin, filled with robbers feasting on a delicious meal, the animals outwit the thieves and eat “until they could eat no more.” When one of the robbers return, he’s attacked in the darkness (the dog bites, the cat scratches, the donkey kicks, and the rooster cries out) and reports to his comrades: “Inside the cabin, there was a man by the door who stabbed me with a knife, and a terrible witch who scratched me with her pointed nails! Then a giant struck me with his club, and up in the roof someone cried, ‘Catch-the-robber-doo!’ So I got out as fast as I could.”

Muller’s meticulous linework and detailed, panoramic vistas are exquisite. She conveys shifting sunlight and shadows especially well here, and the earth-toned palette is warm and pure. She eschews anthropomorphizing the animals (with regard to their appearance, that is, because these are, of course, talking animals) and captures their movements particularly well. There are many spreads below so that you can see for yourself. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself lingering too long over each spread, admiring Muller’s draftmanship. (I mean, just look at that opening spread below!)

Holly Berry takes Aesop around the world in Told and Retold. The titular character of Aesop’s “The Heron” is placed in Eastern North America; “The Lion and the Mouse” is set in East Africa; “The Tortoise and the Hare” in Southwest North America; “The Wolf and the Crane” in North Asia; and so on. Berry tells the tales in direct, plainspoken language, often using the truly inviting question-and-answer format and an effective use of exclamation points: “Was Fox upset he never got to eat the grapes? No, he wasn’t!” She renders these illustrations via hand-carved linoleum block prints with vivid jewel tones. Intermittently throughout the book, we see the animal protagonists marching together and are treated in the end to a spread depicting them all marching toward Aesop himself, sitting with a sroll under a tree. These are images brimming with energy and life. See for yourself below.


From The Musicians of Bremen:


“There once was a donkey who had spent many years pulling heavy carts and carrying hefty sacks for an unkind master. He had worked long and hard, but now he was becoming old and slow. He knew that sooner or later
his master would want to get a new donkey.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“They soon met a rooster, who was crowing as loudly as he could. ‘What’s all this noise about?’ the donkey asked. ‘The farmer doesn’t need me to wake her with my crowing any more,’ cried the rooster. ‘I’m more useful as dinner, so I’m crowing while I still can.’ ‘Well,’ said the donkey, ‘your voice might not be needed here any longer, but you can come to Bremen with us and be a musician too.’
The rooster said yes, and they set off together.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“As night fell, the four travellers came to a dark forest. They were cold and hungry, and wondered whether they would have to spend the night sheltering by a tree. The donkey and dog lay down underneath it, the cat climbed onto a low branch, and the rooster flew higher up. Then the rooster spotted a light twinkling in the distance. ‘That might be a cabin!’ he called. ‘It might be warm!’ said the cat. ‘There might be food!’ said the dog.”
(Click spread to enlarge)


“‘I see a band of robbers eating a delicious meal!’ said the donkey. ‘I’m so hungry,’ whined the dog. ‘Let’s make a plan,’ said the rooster, and they did. The donkey stood on his hind legs and leaned on the windowsill, the dog climbed onto the donkey’s back, the cat balanced on top of the dog, and the rooster perched on the cat’s head.”
(Click spread to enlarge)



“The four musicians ate until they could eat no more, then lay down to sleep: the donkey on some hay, the dog by the door, the cat by the fire, and the ooster on a high beam. But the robbers were watching. ‘The light has gone out,’ said the oldest robber.
He turned to the youngest. ‘Go and see what’s in there,’ he ordered.”

(Two images above: Click either spread to see spread in its entirety)


“Nervously, the young robber stepped inside the dark cabin. He crept forward — and tripped over the dog, who leapt up and bit him! Striking a match for light, he stumbled forward into the cat, who jumped at his face, hissing and scratching. When he dashed back to the ddor, the donkey gave him a big kick. And as he ran from the house, the rooster crowed his loudest ever ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!'”
(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


From Told and Retold:


“The Heron” (Eastern North America)
(Click spread to enlarge and read story in its entirety)


“The Ants and the Grasshopper” (East Asia)
(Click spread to enlarge and read story in its entirety)


“The Fox and the Grapes” (Middle East, Asia)
(Click spread to enlarge and read story in its entirety)


(Click spread to enlarge)


(Click cover to enlarge)


THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN: A GRIMM’S FAIRY TALE. First published in French as Les quatre musiciens de Brême‎ by l’école des loisirs, Paris in 2014. Published in English by Floris Books, Edinburgh in 2015. Second edition 2022. French edition © 2014 l’école des loisirs. English edition © 2015, 2022 Floris Books. Illustrations reproduced by permission of Floris Books.

TOLD AND RETOLD: AROUND THE WORLD WITH AEOOP’S FABLES. Copyright © 2022 by Holly Berry. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House, New York.

* * * Jules’s Kicks * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

1) An exceedingly subtle and tantalizing — but very much there — breeze of autumn in the air.

2) The Tiny Desk Concert with Andrew Bird and Iron & Wine.

3) Phoebe Wahl’s illustrated NYT op-ed from this past week.

4) Nadja and Laszlo’s wedding tunes in last week’s episode of What We Do in the Shadows.

5) Amanda Svensson’s A System So Magnificent It Is Blinding.

6) Hearing all about my daughter’s high school Film in Literature class.

7) Last, but far from least, the passage of a climate bill.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

5 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #807:
Featuring Holly Berry and Gerda Muller”

  1. As a child, I adored traditional and fairy tales. As a librarian, I created a play featuring some of Aesop’s fables. I love these books.
    Jules, please send some of the breeze of autumn to the west. And here’s to the climate bill.
    My kicks,
    1. Book club meets tonight and we’re talking and deciding books.
    2. Am reading The Firekeeper’s Daughter.
    3. Going into the Columbia Gorge to watch the super moon rise on Thursday.
    4. Painting and stenciling a books case for the writing/art room.
    5. Time on the deck.
    6. Making plans.
    7. Writing.
    Have a good week.

  2. Love these illustrations and these stories. Aesop’s Fables is an old favorite, and have always loved The Musician’s of Bremen.

    Jules – I love the wackadoodle chaos of Nadja and Lazslo so much. There’s a fun tik-tok and Insta thing going around with dog’s doing cute things while Lazslo is saying in voiceover: “he’s my best friend, he’s my pal, he’s my home boy, my rotten soldier, he’s my sweet cheese, my good time boy.” and it is the best. That Film in Literature hs class sounds awesome! And yay for the Climate Bill!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Made a filing deadline for briefs on a case.
    2) House and dog sat for a sweet pup for a couple of days. The pup was good company for my work reading and researching, and the house was charming with an awesome backyard oasis.
    3) Learning that there was an event called the Great Daylight Fireball of 1972 and seeing some photos and info from NASA about it. My inner nerd was delighted.
    4) Perfect summer weather.
    5) Working on some changes to my garden landscaping.
    6) The new A League of Their Own series. I thought it was just going to be a copy of the movie, but it goes deeper into the real history of the women and the league.
    7) Maybelle Blair – at 95 she is still going strong and is such an advocate for women’s sports. https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2022-08-09/maybelle-blair-a-league-of-her-own-amazon-prime-series
    7.5) The excitement of trying new things.

    Have a great week Imps!

  3. Just missed you in cyber space Jone – yay for watching the super moon from the Gorge! Sounds like it was a full week. Have a fun book club meeting!

  4. Hi Imps! Hello Holly and Gerda and all of the animals!

    Jules: Ooh, I want to know what’s on her syllabus!

    Jone: Have fun picking books and working on the bookcase. Say hello to the moon for me!

    Yay Rachel!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Visit
    2) Decent rather than disappointing
    3) Catchy tunes
    4) Completing errands
    5) Good
    6) Electric fans
    7) Timing

  5. Jone, have fun at your book club. May you all pick great books. Happy writing!

    Rachel, I might have to join Tik Tok just for that. Love that second kick! I’ll have to look up the Great Daylight Fireweall event. (That was my birth year.) I’m looking forward to starting A League of Their Own. (What a great cast.) Glad to hear you like it.

    Little Willow, not sure about the syllabus quite yet, but I’ve seen the list of movies they’ll be watching, which looks great to me. …. I like that second kick. High five for looking on the bright side.

    Have a good week, you all!

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