“A straightforward retelling of the famous story that will be appreciated by fans of Muller’s style.”
Unhappy as a lonely goatherd for an unfriendly farmer, the orphan Oliver decides to run away. He travels all day in search of work, finally knocking on the door of Alfred the sorcerer, who takes Oliver in as his apprentice. In return for hard work, Oliver gets to learn from Alfred, including learning three magic words—“bullicare,” “abantiare,” and “oboedire.” After promising to only use the words in Alfred’s presence, Oliver breaks Alfred’s trust by using the words unattended in hopes of magically completing a list of chores. This results in disaster and the entire town being flooded, as Oliver doesn’t know the magic word for “stop.” Though disappointed, Alfred forgives Oliver after he promises to never “do anything so silly again” and helps clean up the village. The story ends confirming that Oliver becomes the village’s next sorcerer. Muller revisits the famous poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with her straightforward, matter-of-fact storytelling and signature illustration style, so while there isn’t much by way of flourish or embellishment in either, the illustrations depict thoughtful details about settings and characters, like Alfred’s peculiar belongings as a sorcerer, and Oliver’s enjoyment of bossing others around. Full of the expected morals and lessons gleaned from this classic tale—keeping promises, penitence, and forgiveness—Muller’s retelling will delight fans of her work, while others may find it less charming than other variations, like Tomie dePaola’s beloved adaptation, Strega Nona.
Gerda Muller was born in 1926 in Naarden, Holland. She attended the Fine Arts School of Amsterdam and Ecole Estienne of Paris. She has illustrated over 120 books for children and her books have been translated into many languages. She is the illustrator of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Town Musicians of Bremen, A Year Around the Great Oak, A Year in Our New Garden, How Does My Garden Grow?, Where Do They Go When It Rains and the ‘Seasons’ board books (all Floris Books).
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The illustrations in this book were created using gouache, colored pencil and graphite.