Karen Haber Reviews The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling, illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger (Arthur A. Levine 978-1-338-26218-6, $34.99, 159pp, hc) October 2018. Cover by Lisbeth Zwerger

An unexpected pairing of author and artist has yielded a big payoff in The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling with illustration by inter­nationally acclaimed illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger. This is surely one of the most impressive tie-in products to the Harry Potter universe I’ve ever seen. Intended as a volume from the Hogwarts Li­brary, The Tales of Beedle the Bard transcends its commercial considerations and achieves first-rate storybook stature, thanks to Zwerger’s mysterious, stylized mixed-media illustrations. Her work is instantly recognizable and remains iconically her own, regardless of the familiarity of the universe and story she is depicting. Time and again she has surprised and delighted us with her unique take on such time-honored children’s fantasy tales as Alice in Wonderland (1994), The Wizard of Oz (1996), and Tales from the Brothers Grimm (2013). The celebrated artist lives in Vienna and has received the Hans Christian Anderson Award for Illustration and been included in the New York Times list of best Illustrated Books.

Zwerger’s participation elevates any book to the next level. So it is with The Tales of Beedle the Bard: it’s a deluxe and beautiful children’s book filled with wonderful artistic details, exquisitely designed and produced, from its tip to its tail. Included in the package are delicate gilded motifs on the cover and handsome graphics on the endpa­pers, quality paper stock, matte treatment of color, full page bleeds, and double-spread illustrations,

Zwerger’s work here is simply delightful. The faint shadows of medieval folk imagery add to the appeal. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, a specialist in fine children’s books (and US publisher of Shaun Tan), The Tales of Beedle the Bard has first-rate production values. The design elements: line framing, artistic details inserted into text or included as marginalia, and evocative illustrations by Zwerger – all combine to create a remarkably attractive volume that will appeal to any lover of fine illustrated children’s fantasy books – as well as fans of the Harry Pot­ter universe.


This review and more like it in the March 2019 issue of Locus.

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