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Monday, 23 January 2017

The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Adapted by: Unknown
Illustrated by: John Holder
Publisher:  Ladybird Books Ltd, 1998

From Ladybird's famous 'Read it Yourself' series, we enjoy Ladybird Level 4 The Pied Piper of Hamelin, mainly due to John Holder's very eerie, spindly-legged depiction of rats, but also because the ending of this version of the adaptation, it's very creepy ( and memorable).  In the ending of this adaptation the Mayor is continuing to look for the children lost in the mountainside 'for years and years and years. He is still looking for them now.' Lack of text closure isn't so common in modern children's lit in the UK I think, and hence this ending feels quite haunting and memorable. The detailed hatching on the aged and wandering mayor is almost ethereal; Bert (5) always asks many hypotheticals in response to this image: 'will the major find the children one day?', 'what does the major eat now?', 'Is he sad about the rats and not paying the Pied Piper.' This endpage really surmises 'regret' as a theme, such an interesting concept to bring to young children. 

While Ladybird level 4 is designed as 'longer stories for more fluent readers', children's reading schemes today seem to press more on the vocabulary building rather than length of story, so emerging readers today might find this long winded. As a bedtime book, read by an adult, or fluent reader, it's enchanting. The rats are quite frightening, both in size, as the illustrator experiments well with perspective, getting some rat close ups in the foreground. 

The story is very moralistic, the mayor doing wrong by his people by not paying the Pied Piper and keeping to his promise. This mistake brings about sorrow and loss for a whole town, having their children taken from them, lead away as the rats were. In terms of folklore and fairytales, The Pied Piper is perhaps one of the most alarming, as there is no fantastical beast or mythical creature casting the spells or doing the capturing, but instead, something very everyday and immediate, a man. Fear is,  by its nature enthralling, and as such my children are captivated by this book. 

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