Genre: Fairy Tale / Norway / Family / Manners
Year Published: 1992
Year Read: 2014
Publisher: Holiday House
I have read many folktales that deal with the whole “two brothers are selfish and rude characters while the third brother is a kind and polite character” storyline; but I have never read a version of this storyline from Norway before! This Norwegian version of the “three brothers who find their way in the world” archetype that shows up in many folktales and fairy tales is called “Boots and his Brothers,” which was retold by Eric A. Kimmel along with illustrations by Kimberly Bulcken Root and it is a pretty interesting take on treating people with respect whenever they help you out.
The story starts out with three brothers each seeking their own fortunes. The first two brothers were named Peter and Paul, who were both rude and rough while the youngest brother, who was named Boots because of his tall boots, was polite and kind. On their way, they meet an old woman who tells the three brothers about how the king will give a huge reward to the person who can accomplish these three tasks: to chop down a huge tree that is blocking the sunlight from his castle, dig a deep well in the iron mountain and fill the well with sweet water. Well, of course, Peter and Paul were extremely rude to the old woman by pushing her aside, while Boots tried to help the old woman up on her feet. It was then that the old woman gives Boots some helpful advice that might help him accomplishes these tasks, which is:
“Whenever you ask a question, do not rest until you find the answer.”
Will Boots and his brothers complete the tasks that the king set for them?
Read this book to find out!
Now, I have read many folktales that have the three brothers scenario with the youngest being the most kind hearted out of the three and this book was quite unusual in approaching that theme! Eric A. Kimmel has done a great job at retelling this ancient Norwegian folktale as it shows that being polite and kind hearted can reap its own rewards and this is definitely a great message to send to kids who are trying to learn how to behave toward other people themselves! I loved the fantasy elements that Eric A. Kimmel brought to the story as it was interesting seeing Boots explore the many different tools he needs to accomplish the king’s goals such as spotting an ax that is chopping up trees by itself or finding a spade that is digging up dirt by itself. It really shows the somewhat surreal nature of this story, while also providing a positive message about being kind towards other people and being intuitive enough to find the things you really need. Kimberly Bulcken Root’s artwork is gorgeous to look at as the characters are drawn realistically and I really loved how the scenes of Boots discovering the various tools he needs to accomplish his goals are drawn effectively to draw the readers in this strange world.
The reason why I gave this book a four star rating was because the artwork, even though it was gorgeous to look at, was a bit too dark to see through and I found myself struggling with figuring out what was going on in the artwork since everything was shaded in extremely dark colors. Also, I did find the characters to be lacking real personalities, even though we are told that Boots is polite and Peter and Paul are rude and rough. I would have loved to explore more with the characters, especially with Boots and see why they act that way in this story, such as why are Paul and Peter always rude while Boots is always polite and what were their lives like before they traveled across the world?
Overall, “Boots and his Brothers” is a pretty interesting story about the importance of being kind towards other people and anyone who enjoys reading folktales in general will definitely enjoy this book! I would recommend this book to children ages five and up since the artwork might be too difficult for some kids to see.