The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers and Other Gruesome Tales

by | May 3, 2022 | Book Review, Fiction, Illustrated book

The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers and Other Gruesome Tales (cover)

Book Details

The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers and Other Gruesome Tales
Jen Campbell, illus. Adam De Souza. London: Thames & Hudson, hb, 978 0 5006 5258 9, 2021, £14.99, 116pp.
Fiction, illustrated book, 8-12 years

Like the Brothers Grimm’s short stories, this collection, featuring fourteen tales from around the world and retold by British author and award-winning poet Jen Campbell, has but few specific descriptions of the places in which they are set.

They could be anywhere, giving them a universal appeal and prompting the reader’s imagination.

Recommended for children aged 8-12, Campbell, who in the Introduction very effectively addresses her reader directly, has restored the stories’ original gruesome elements while adding some ideas of her own. Descriptions of body parts and flowing blood abound as in the title story from Korea, while hundreds of scorpions flow from a wicked queen’s mouth in the Indian tale The Son of Seven Mothers. These are the stuff of nightmares.

Canadian-based illustrator and cartoonist Adam de Souza’s bold, and sometimes graphically designed, darkly coloured illustrations complement the mood of the stories, leaving the viewer sometimes to imagine the details hidden in the shadows. We see this in the visceral picture of a plucky woman, sword in hand, ready to defend herself as a huge bear, that occupies virtually the whole page, emerges from the darkness in readiness to launch itself at her. This illustration appears in the spirited tale from Spain The Woman and the Glass Mountain, one of two stories in the collection that feature same-sex relationships. Here, the story has a happy-ever-after ending for a princess, an empowered female as several are in this collection, and a female commoner, while in the gentler-paced Irish tale The Souls Trapped Under the Ocean the story of the love between a man and a merman ends in separation and death.

Good to see these highly imaginative stories re-emerge updated and with the gorier details reinstated. An entertaining read for children and adults alike.


Review by June Hopper Swain