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Children's book review: The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brother's Grimm retold by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Bearskinner
The Bearskinner

The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brother’s Grimm

Retold by Laura Amy Schlitz and Illustrated by Max Grafe

Published by Candlewick (2007)



Laura Amy Schiltz’s retelling of this lesser known Grimm tale is as dark as the original.  It is a story of a soldier, returning from war, that meets the devil and is given an offer that he cannot refuse.  The man must kill a bear, wear the skin for seven years without bathing or praying to God then he will be rich beyond his dreams for the rest of his life.  If he can make it for seven years without telling anyone of his situation, praying or washing then he will save his soul and be rich.  It is story of a man’s journey to find Grace and love. 


This is a well-told tale meant for older children and adults. It is an excellent story to read and then discuss. It is a story that offers hope and justice to readers and yet does not take away the feeling of reading a true darkly written Grimm fairytale. If you are familiar with the Grimm tales, they are stories that are not always children friendly.  Adapting a Grimm tale and being able to retain the eerie and dark messages can be a daunting job for a writer that aims to cater to the younger children, Schiltz does it well.  Schlitz's wonderful storytelling makes the lengthy book a joy to read aloud.  Grafe's dark, “mixed-media” illustrations are a story within themselves.  The work that Grafe has extended to every detail of the story through pictures is evident. 


Laura Amy Schlitz is a librarian and professional storyteller and lives in
.  Max Grafe has illustrated several books for children lives in
New York
.   “The Bearskinner” is a work of art that is worth the purchase to read for years to come.  I would not suggest the book for smaller children but is it a great story for the more mature children and adults.  It is a book worth your time, a gift to share with your family.