Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Alberic the Wise and Other Tales by Norton Juster, illustrated by Domenico Gnoli

A compilation of three short fairy tales: "Alberic the Wise", about a man named Alberic who spends his life searching for wisdom and trying out many vocations along the way, only to find as an old man he is perceived as wise because of his experiences; "She Cries No More", about a young boy named Claude, who doesn't care about anything until he steps inside a painting to help a beautiful lady; "Two Kings", where a king who lives in poverty and a king who lives in great abundance set out to find out if there's another kingdom better off or worse off than they are.

While this was a very short book (only 88 pages) and it wasn't very complex, and it has pictures and all, this isn't really a children's book. In the same that fairy tales weren't really meant for children, it just ended up that way. They are stories that teach a lesson, and they were nice stories, and I enjoyed them very much, but I also don't really see myself recommending this as a fun read for very many children. It is the kind of book a parent gets to read aloud to their kid and then talk about it.

For example, in "Two King," Good King RNP's kingdom is in ruins. The weather is always bad, no one has any money, and no one even knows who the king is. He's completely miserable, but his only adviser assures him that it's probably worse everywhere else. Meanwhile, King Magnus the Abundant's kingdom is beautiful, happy, and plentiful. However, King Magnus wonders if somewhere out there there's some who has more than he does. Both kings set out to see for themselves. King Magnus' people love him so much they don't want him to be sad when he gets somewhere where people don't greet him, so the entire kingdom packs up and secretly travels to King RNP's kingdom, fixes everything up, and then lines the street to greet him. King Magnus is happy, until he sees how new and beautiful everything is and thinks that someone does have things better than he does. King RNP arrives and King Magnus' deserted kingdom, where a storm as destroyed much of it. He looks around at the destroyed, abandon town, and thinks that some does have things worse than he does. King RNP goes home happy, and King Magnus goes home sad.

I was most interested in "Alberic the Wise," where Alberic goes from vocation to vocation, but not really being good at anything and then moves on. This reminded me very much of Lloyd Alexander's Tarran Wanderer. I bet there's some Old Norse or Old English story that both were based on. Maybe I'll email my Literature and the Fantastic teacher and ask her.

So anyway, I liked it a lot, I love Norton Juster, good stories, not exactly a kid's book though.


  1. Looking for reviews of this Norton Juster book, this is one of the few I found. But I have a hard time taking the review seriously due to numerous errors. Two are shown here:

    "he is perceived as wise because of his *experiances*"

    "It's the kind of book a parent gets to read aloud to their kid and *than* talk about it."

  2. We appreciate you pointing out spelling or grammatical errors so we can correct them. We are sorry you feel these two errors invalidate the review itself.

  3. Well, I DID take the review seriously, and I found it to be insightful and helpful.


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