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Jim Henson's The Storyteller
Edited by Nate Cosby
Cover Artist: Patrick Schenberger, Mike Maihack
Review by Gayle Surrette
Archaia Entertainment, LLC Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781936393244
Date: 27 December 2011 List Price $19.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

The stories are all begun by the Storyteller. He and his dog while a way some of their quiet time by telling stories. The Storyteller collects stories and loves to try them out on his dog, who is a critical and often questioning listener.

Between the stories there are short asides from the Storyteller -- a poem, a meno, or a stray thought. There are also additional full-page illustrations by Dennis Calero, Mitch Gerads, Janet K. Lee, Mike Maihack, and David Petersen.

Old Nick & the Peddler by Roger Langridge, art by Jordie Bellaire, is based on a Scandinavian Folk Tale.

A peddler who isn't very good at his profession finds that signing contracts with a stranger named 'Nick' may not be the best thing to do in the long run. I found this to be reminiscent of “The Devil and Daniel Webster” though this tale had a few unexpected twists.

The art for this tale exaggerates the characters to indicate inner strenths and weaknesses. There are several visual cues to help the reader's expectations for certain characters and events.
The Milkmaid & Her Pail, story and art by Colleen Coover.
This story is from an Aesop Fable. It's basically a retelling of the cliché, “Don't count your chickens before they hatch” only with the sale of milk as the basis and a few rather interesting twists on what the Milkmaid will do when she's rich and famous. Told simply but with lovely sepia/pastel artwork and fun illustrations of what the future will look like for the Milkmaid – if only...
An Agreement Between Friends by Chris Eliopoulos, art by Mike Maihack, is based on a Romanian folktale.
This time the dog tells a story of why dogs and cats don't get along. It all begins when a cat gets the best of a dog with a contract that is supposed to split the farm chores between them. Once the dog figures out that he's got the worst of the deal ... well, I'm sure you can imagine what happens, but the tale is better for the reading of it.

Art this time is in shades of yellow, tan, and rust along with browns and reds. Very much a once upon a time color scheme for the retelling of an old 'historical' tale.
Old Fire Dragaman by Jeff Parker, art by Tom Fowler, is based on an Appalachian Jack tale. (Lettered by Rus Wooton.)
The Dragaman is big and violent and usually get whatever he wants. When he takes the feast that Jack and his brothers have prepared, Jack's not going to let the Dragaman get away with it. He goes after him and finds a few surprises awaiting him in the Dragaman's lair.

The art is richly imagined with lots of clever details cluing the reader into the surprising reveal near the end.
Puss In Boots by Marjorie Liu, art by Jennifer L. Meyer, is from a French fairy tale. (Lettering by Rus Wooton.)
Most of us know the story of “Puss In Boot” and while there are lots of variations the main details often remain the same. Since this is based on a French fairy tale, the palette is soft blues and rose with delicate backgrounds including castles and lots of flowers and whimsy. A lovely tale that's beautiful to see as well as read -- about love found, lost, and finally achieved.
The Frog Who Became An Emperor by Paul Tobin, art by Even Shaner and lettering by Rus Wooton, is from a Chinese folk tale.
This tale, at least for me, was one that I'd never read before. The art grounds the story with backgrounds, clothing, and people that keep you in China (or maybe Japan). The story itself is about an elderly couple who pray for a child and at last the woman becomes pregnant. However, she gives birth to a frog – remember Stuart Little? Maybe a frog is the oriental version of a mouse. The frog grows up very fast and goes to seek his fortune and a wife – interesting events ensue. Very entertaining.
The Crane Wife, story and art by Katie Cook with lettering by Rus Wooton, is from a Japanese folk tale.
Similar to many folk tales where an injured animal is found and healed, “The Crane Wife” has a young man find an injured crane that he nurses back to health and then frees to return to the wild. Later a mysterious young woman shows up who, as the reader will quickly guess, is more than she seems. The tale takes off from there with a twist or two but in line with similar European tales of this type.

The art is more suggestion of background and little detail but it works for this story.
Momotaro The Peach Boy is adapted from a Japanese fairy tale by Ron Marz and Craig Rousseau.
The artwork for this story is very striking – chalk on rough paper so lots of background texture. In the story an elderly couple hope for a child and one day find a huge lovely peach. They plan to have the peach for their supper when just as they start to cut it open they hear a voice within and the peach splits and a small child is in the center. The couple welcome him and raise them as their son. Years later their son, Momotaro, decides to go and serve his country and sets off on a journey. He gathers friends along his journey and has many adventures. Nice variation on the poor son seeking his fortune story.
The Witch Baby, from an early Russian folk tale, is based on the unproduced Storyteller teleplay written by Anthongy Minghella, Susan Kodieck, and Anne Mountfield. Adapted by Nate Cosby, Art by Roman Cliquet, Color by Adam Street, and Lettering by Rus Wooton.
The art starts off as scatterings of cards that resemble the Tarot before the cards grow in size to regular cells with lovely rich colors and detail. The story is one of greed, selfishness, and parents who can't be bothered to take time from their own pleasures to tend to their son. The palace hosts one 24/7 party and the young prince is ignored unless it's to show him off. The prince is warned that his parents will have another child – a witch child – who will consume everyone and everything and have teeth of iron. So the prince escapes to the Castle of the Sister of the Sun where he is safe from his sister and the neglect of his parents. As you can imagine, our hero of the story can't remain in hiding forever and eventually he must return and take back his castle and land. How he goes on from this point is what makes the story interesting.
Each tale is brackets by the thoughts and by-play of the Storyteller and his dog. I've never seen the television show, but his collection of stories is well worth your time if you have an interest in folk and fairy tales. There's also some very thoughtful short pieces on stories and storytelling.

Following the tales, there's also list of short biographies of each of the storytellers and artists.

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