Brothers Grimm fairy tales get the MinaLima design treatment in brilliant new edition
Review by C.J. Bunce
From the opening map of the Fairy Tale Kingdom to the vintage typeset text to the precisely cut scherenschnitte fold-outs of thorn bushes and forests, to the silhouettes of the chapter title pages, you know you’re in for a magical journey with MinaLima’s ninth update of classic children’s books, Snow White and Other Grimms Fairy Tales, available for pre-order now here at Amazon, and coming to all bookstores next week. Renowned designers behind the Harry Potter movies, Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima–the artists known as MinaLima–just might have created their best book of the series, selecting 20 stories first published in 1812 by the Brothers Grimm and illustrating the stories with sumptuous design details, title pages, end papers, and best of all, interactive, pop-up elements.
Each story is from an English translation of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimms’ fairy tale, which was itself collected by the writers from repeated retellings of the story as part of oral tradition and folklore. Some of these you may know, and some you may only think you know. If you’ve only been introduced to Disney’s version of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel, you’re in for a surprise, as Disney toned down all of these. Many of these stories have a darker edge in their variation as told by the Grimms. For generations the earliest children’s stories weren’t hesitant to feature murder as a central plot element, and this volume begins with one filled with probably the most murder attempts of all: Snow White. The other fairy tales included are Snow-White and Rose-Red, Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose), Cinderella (Ashputtel), The Goose-Girl, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, Fisherman and His Wife, The Valiant Little Tailor, Little Red Riding Hood, Mother Holle, The Golden Goose, The Twelve Huntsmen, The Frog Prince, The Wolf and the Seven Little Kits, The Travelling Musicians, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Hans in Luck, and The Elves and the Shoemaker. Many of these stories have elements readers will find infused into other popular stories, films, and shows today.
Two hundred and ten years later, these stories continue to have relevance, and continue to prompt readers to ask why–why have generations of readers, teachers, librarians, and parents believed these stories possessed something worth knowing and passing on? Recurring concepts and themes jump from the page: the significance of the spinning wheel both when these stories were written down and since, dwarfs, woodsmen, and huntsmen, the number twelve, step-mothers and step-sisters, detached fathers, uncaring mothers, children as a burden on their parents, the desire to rise in social status to become king or queen, and envy for the life of princes and princesses. In all readers will find an element of fear–fear of parents no longer providing protection, fear of outsiders, fear of the dark, of enclosed places, of the woods, of wild animals. Some have elements of fables, but some don’t readily appear to have any earth-shattering message at all.
These stories remain ideal to read with kids, especially to get them to ask that question of “Why?” themselves. Why did the Brothers Grimm write some of these stories so succinctly instead of drawing them out in storytelling form with more nuance as we might today? Why do the characters often take unexpected turns, make unexpected choices? Are the values spinning through these stories still valuable today, and if not, why not? Snow White and Other Grimms Fairy Talesis a particularly good book to read along with MinaLima’s edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and Other Fairy Tales. Ask yourself, ask your kids, which author is better? Which has more relevancy today? Which are the most fun to read?
My favorite of this selection includes the less familiar tales: Snow-White and Rose-Red, a story of a visit from a bear, The Travelling Musicians, Twelve Dancing Princesses, and The Twelve Huntsmen. Each of these has unexpected twists and turns.
Yes, MinaLima seems to save the best book for its next edition and this is no different, surprising and fresh in look and incorporated pop-up elements (this time the book includes nine interactive elements), but each volume in the collection is worth checking out, all produced by Harper Design.
Grimms’ stories and MinaLima’s artwork–this is ideal for a reading journey for kids or adults, one that is spread over several days or weeks, chapter by chapter. It’s as timeless a collection as any set of children’s classics, and in the MinaLima library this volume has more “classic hits” than prior volumes. MinaLima is the design studio combining the imaginations of two artists that gained notoriety for creating the entire ten-year run of graphic art and graphic props for the Harry Potter film series (discussed in the books The Archive of Magic, The Art of Harry Potter, and The Art of Harry Potterpocket edition). British design artist Miraphora Mina and Brazilian design artist Eduardo Lima created even more for the franchise as Rowling’s wizarding world continued in the Fantastic Beasts movie series (find out more here).