Sunday, February 14, 2010
"Peter & Max" by Bill Willingham
Summary: In this re-imagining of classic fairy tales, Max and Peter Piper are brothers in a family of traveling musicians. When their father decides to give the family's treasured and magical pipe to the younger brother Peter, instead of Max, something terrible is unloosed in the elder brother. Max spends his life spreading evil as Peter tries to survive, and later defeat, Max. The story is told in the present, as the grown Peter attempts to stop Max one last time, and the past, which recounts the boys' younger days.
Musings: A big thanks to Cecelia at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia for this book, which I won in one of her contests. I know reinvented fairy tales are popular right now, but I haven't read many books in the genre myself. However, I really enjoyed Willingham's use of the classic stories. The book integrates many stories (notably the Pied Piper and Little Bo Peep), but doesn't feel constrained by them, and it also doesn't shy away from the darker aspect of the stories found in the originals (but less so in the more modern "cleaned-up" versions). Willingham is also able to make good use of the fact that so many fairy tales use the name Peter (a rather strange coincidence... or is there something else to the name Peter?).
Peter & Max is a fun story with a brisk pace and a good amount of action. Although the book is based off Willingham's Fables comic series (which follows fairy tale characters living in the United States), I didn't feel like I was missing anything because I haven't read the comics. And although Peter & Max is a novel, I especially enjoyed the occasional illustrations. In fact, I might even be willing to give his comic series a try, even though I didn't like my first attempt at graphic novels.
This book would be perfect for people who like a slightly more adult retelling of fairy tales (although this book certainly wouldn't be inappropriate for a high school audience).
***This book qualifies for the TwentyTen Reading Challenge ("Shiny & New" category).