a French picture book mini-review

August 23, 2005

La Petite Marchande d’Allumettes [The little match girl], by H.C. Andersen/ translation by P.G. La Chesnais/ illustrated by Georges LeMoine
As the French librarian read this book to us out loud, in Paris, I cried. I was immensely moved by this retelling of Andersen’s tale, and I was rather taken aback at my own reaction. Interestingly enough, the language of the story is not what touched me the most. The tale is indeed a highly moving, and immensely sad one; unfortunately, though, I fear I have grown hardened to the original by merely being overly familiar with it.
For that reason, I love that La Chesnais and LeMoine have redone the story in a way that brings new poignancy to a potentially stale story. They have brought it to life by the ingenious parallel, via solely the artwork, of the original tale with the modern real-life equivalent of a little Bosnian girl stuck in war-time harsh reality. The truth, of course, is that life really can be every bit as heartbreaking as Andersen’s original story . . . and I am grateful for any way of communicating, in a manner that can cut to the core of the heart, such truth to often too-sheltered young people today.

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